Local leaders continue to promote 'complete count'

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- Officials say it is going to take everyone working together to make the upcoming census a success.

That was the message Albany-Dougherty Complete Count Committee Co-Chairman Mike McCoy relayed to the Dougherty Rotary Club Tuesday.

The U.S. Census counts every resident in the nation, and is required by the Constitution to take place every 10 years. The 2010 count will help communities receive more than $400 billion in federal funds each year for things like hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels and other public works projects as well as emergency services.

The data collected by the census also helps determine the number of seats the state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"To boil it down for you, it is about resources," McCoy said. "This information is very, very valuable. The census data is extremely, extremely critical for us."

The data is also used as a basis for economic data, as with unemployment rates, McCoy explained.

In March, census forms will be delivered to every residence in the United States and Puerto Rico. Officials ask that residents answer the 10 questions and then mail the form back in the postage-paid envelope provided. Those that fail to mail it back may receive a visit from a census taker sometime midway through the year, who will ask the questions from the form.

"(The census workers) will only show up if you don't respond," McCoy said. "The date of birth and phone number are the only numbers that are asked for. They will not ask for your Social Security number."

In Albany, response percentages from the 2000 Census ranged from 56 percent to 87 percent, with the lowest rates occurring in and around the downtown area. The Complete Count Committee has been actively involved in locally getting the word out on the census over the last several months, such as with the block party at the Carver Teen Center in January.

"We've partnered with a lot of folks to get the message out," McCoy said. "We are doing everything we possibly can to make people aware of the 2010 Census and its importance."

There will be other events held within the coming weeks to promote participation in the count, McCoy said.

Any personal data provided is protected under federal law. The form is due back on April 1.

Mary Ligon, president of the civic club, said she learned a great deal about the significance of the census.

"I did not know the undercount might mean lost dollars to the community," she said.

Roughly $1,700 in funding will be lost for each individual not counted, McCoy said.

By law, the Census Bureau will deliver the population information to President Barack Obama for apportionment in December. In March 2011, the Bureau will complete delivery of redistricting data to states.