The Census takes place every 10 years, as it has since 1790, to get a head count of the nation’s population, but since the number of a state’s representatives in Congress is determined by its population, Census data is also used to determine that crucial figure. The other function of the Census is to guide government agencies in the allocation of more than $400 billion in federal funds to state and local governments.
Using Census data, money is distributed to communities across the country to fund public works projects, enhance education, provide additional emergency services and retrofit hospitals. Money is also given to state and local governments to build and fix roadways. On a broader scale, the Census serves as a snapshot of America, spotting economic and social trends.
Brentwood resident Roland Fernandez, a Census partnership assistant based out of the Contra Costa County Census headquarters in Concord, said the motto of this year’s Census is “it’s easy, it’s safe and it’s important.” According to Fernandez, each person in Contra Costa County who participates in the Census will bring $11,450 in funding for local programs.
“If 100 people return the form, that’s more than a million dollars in funding to be used in the county. So the more people who participate, the more money we’ll get to support our local programs.”
Fernandez added that filling out the Census form is required by the Constitution.
Thursday, April 1, is Census Day. In a perfect world, the Census Bureau will have received all of the Census forms by then, but chances are, as with the last Census in 2000, more than 40 million households will fail to respond. In 2000, Contra Costa County recorded a participant rate of 75 percent, while California’s was 73.
Replacement forms will be sent to households in April as a friendly reminder to encourage participation, and if the Bureau hasn’t received anything from you by May, the “Non-response Follow-up” process begins and a Census taker will visit your residence.
Fernandez said the 2010 Census form is so easy to fill out (the questionnaire is only 10 questions long) that it will take no more than 10 minutes to complete – quick work compared to the 50-plus question Census forms of the 19th century.
Census assistants understand that some people, especially illegal immigrants, might be reluctant to participate in the Census, consider the questionnaire an invasion of privacy, and question how the information will be used and who will have access to it. Fernandez responded that by law, Census information is kept confidential. Members of the Bureau take an oath to protect respondents’ individual information. As the Census is used to provide demographic statistics – not single out individuals – federal agencies such as the FBI and IRS may not request to look at the Census files.
To emphasize the importance of participating in the Census, the City of Oakley showed an informational video at last week’s council meeting and posted messages about the Census to rotate on the plasma screens located in the Council Chambers.
“The Census is the way for communities like Oakley to make sure we get our fair share of federal and state distributed revenues,” said Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery. “We know some are hesitant to fill out the forms, but it is a civic duty, whether you are a citizen or immigrant.”
For more information about the Census, visit www.2010.census.gov.