Take 10 in 2010: Participate in the Census

One of the most important civic events for our nation is taking place right now: the 2010 Census. In March, all Orange County households should have received their 2010 Census form. University students who live in a dormitory, residence hall, sorority or fraternity house will receive a census form in April or May 2010. These students have no need to mail the form back. Instead students are asked to turn the form in to the school’s designated census form return site. As required by the U.S. Constitution, it is important that every residence completes and returns the form as soon as possible.  Lack of participation can result in our community receiving less federal funding and less access to important services and resources that we might otherwise have received.

One of the shortest census forms in history, the 2010 Census form asks ten questions and takes about ten minutes to complete. The individual in whose name the housing unit is rented or owned should complete the form on behalf of every person living there, both relatives and nonrelatives. Take ten minutes to fill out the form and mail it back. It’s easy.

In Census 2000, the national mail participation rate was 72 percent as of the April 2000 cut-off, while the mail participation rate was 76 percent in Irvine. I challenge Irvine and UCI to beat their 2000 mail participation rate. By increasing the mail participation rate, we can reduce the overall costs of conducting the 2010 Census and help achieve a more accurate count. About $85 million is saved for every one percent increase in national mail participation. So, I urge all people living in Irvine to look for, complete and return their 2010 Census form upon receipt.

Research has found that many people do not participate in the census due to a lack of understanding of these benefits or the purpose of the census. It’s important for people living in our community to know that the census is much more than a population count. Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the census provides an opportunity for you to ensure our community is accurately represented when it comes to funding for essential programs and services.

Census data directly affect how more than $435 billion in federal funding is distributed annually to tribal, state and local governments. Census data also guides local planning decisions, including where to provide additional social services, establish child-care and senior centers, and build new roads, hospitals, schools and job training and community centers. Data also are used to reapportion congressional seats to states and assure proper district representation.

Additionally, businesses use census data to inform critical decisions as well as determine locations for new offices and stores, helping to create jobs in our communities. These and many other benefits to our community and families are the reasons why everyone in the United States, every man, woman and child, should participate in the 2010 Census and be counted.

Everyone also needs to know that census participation is safe. The information you provide on your census form is confidential. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities. All Census Bureau employees take an oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

The easiest and most efficient method of participating is to fill out your form upon arrival and send it back. Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC) will be available to assist those unable to read or understand the census form, and a Language Assistance Guide also will be available in 59 languages at all QAC locations. For those with visual impairments, the Language Assistance Guide will be available in large print and Braille. Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons who do not have access to Video Relay Service (VRS) can call the TDD number, 1-866-783-2010.

Census workers will visit homes that did not return forms beginning in April to take the count in person. Please answer their questions. Census workers can be identified by a badge and a Census Bureau bag.

Take ten minutes to complete and return your ten-question census form. By completing and returning your census form, you are performing an important civic duty. Your participation can better define the future for you, our community and our country.

Dwight Delgado is a partnership specialist with the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of the Census.