Census block party kicks off on Saturday

ALBANY -- In an effort to drum up community support for the coming Census count, Albany Ward 3 Commissioner Christopher Pike is holding a block party Saturday.

The U.S. Census Bureau will begin mailing out questionnaires in the coming weeks and local officials are working to ensure that as many people as possible get counted and that rumors circulating about count are squelched.

Pike will hold the city's first official Census block party Saturday from noon until 4 p.m. at the Carver Teen Center at 1023 S. McKinley St.

Pike said that the event is designed to increase awareness that the decennial count is nearing and urge people to participate.

The count will determine how much state and federal funding comes to Albany and Dougherty County and how the area is politically represented on the local, state and national levels. It also will serve as the basis for many government formulas that determine a wide variety of information for the next 10 years.

This week, members of the joint public-private Complete Count Committee began efforts to reach out to what has been traditionally termed the hard-to-count population.

"Those are those people who are either hard to reach, like the homeless, and the ones who are suspicious and distrustful of government and believe its some plot to take their personal information," Assistant County Administrator and CCC Co-chair Mike McCoy said during a presentation to the Dougherty County Commission.

The group is trying to fight common misconceptions floating in the community about the security of the information that is given and what the government uses it for.

Federal law keeps personal information provided in the census confidential for 72 years, he said.

McCoy said the 10-question forms take roughly 10 minutes to answer and that if a resident doesn't answer and mail the questionnaire back in, a Census worker will come by later knocking on the door for the information.

"If you don't want people showing up at your home, fill out the questionnaire and mail it in," he said.

Not participating in the census is a crime punishable by up to a $5,000 fine, but it is rarely enforced.

The group is hoping to boost Albany and Dougherty County's participation in the census from the 63 percent figure in 2000.

While McCoy urged everyone to be counted, he said it was important to watch out for scammers posing as Census workers asking for Social Security numbers.

"The Census never asks for Social Security numbers," he said, "So if someone is asking you for one, it's someone trying to take advantage."