The Sulphur Springs City Council earlier this week approved a resolution supporting the 2010 Census, and why wouldn’t they? It could be worth millions of dollars.
The upcoming count of the nation’s populace begins in earnest in March of 2010, and city leaders believe it’s vitally important to get it right.
“We apply for a lot of grants, and for any kind of federal money, we have to prove our poverty — we see it a lot,” said City Manager Marc Maxwell. “And almost without exception, we just narrowly miss because we are just not quite poor enough.
“Well, the census is coming up, and we have an opportunity to make sure that we are counted accurately.”
Pat McCoy, a “partnership specialist” with the Census Bureau, spoke to the council about the upcoming count, performed every 10 years.
“I’m here to tell you why the Census is so important, but the city manager has already made that point for me,” McCoy said. “I can’t tell you how many times a city will come in and they’ll score those grants, and they’ll be that close. And you guys are that way a lot of times.”
Maxwell related the story of a community development grant to build nine new homes for low-income families.
“We actually didn’t get that grant,” Maxwell said. “We just narrowly missed it.”
But other entities that had been approved for the funding had returned small amounts of leftover money, and the agency decided to fund a second round of grants.
“We just happened to be next in line,” Maxwell said. “That’s how close we get, and I think that with a little bit of work on this to get it counted accurately, we could fare a lot better in the future.”
There are obvious reasons why a census is necessary — after all, it’s required by the U.S. Constitution, and it’s also the basis for for legislative redistricting and the number of U.S representatives assigned to each state.
But the census data can also drive development, both public and private, helping determine where schools, hospitals and more are located, as well as new supermarkets, shopping centers, housing developments or other facilities.
“It tells you what neighborhoods need, and where to invest in everything from senior citizens’ services to emergency preparedness, to roads, to streets, to public works, transportation, public health, economic development, and I could just keep going on and on and on,” McCoy said.
The count will begin in earnest on April 1, 2010, but a lot of preparation will come beforehand.
For example, in 2008 the Census Bureau received maps containing the addresses of all households in Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County. Census workers later this year will be trained to verify all those addresses.
“So if you see somebody with a funny little computer in their hand walking or driving down your street, they’re not stealing information,” McCoy said. “They are verifying that the address is actually there and it looks like somebody is living there.”
The majority of data compiled for the census will come from short questionnaires that will be mailed to all households in March of 2010. About 65 percent of Sulphur Springs households filled out the questionnaire in the 2000 census, about the national average.
But the “hard-to-count” population doesn’t usually fill out the questionnaire, McCoy indicated.
“People who rent and move frequently, those in crowded houses, poverty, low education, those on public assistance, immigrants, non-English speakers, female heads of households are all examples of hard-to-count populations,” he said, adding that those people can easily make the difference between a city’s grant application being accepted or rejected.
For those households that don’t return the questionnaire, census workers will do all they can to get an accurate count.
“Someone will come and knock on your door in the morning and evening and weekends until we get a response,” McCoy said.
He also said citizens shouldn’t have to worry about their private information being released — under Title XIX of the U.S. Code, the personal information collected by the Census Bureau cannot be released (and there’s a five-year prison term and $250,000 fine for anyone who does).
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