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Countdown to the count

By Staff | Feb 18, 2010

Ten years ago the U.S. Census questionnaire many residents received by mail was several pages long and included such questions as how many bedrooms were in the residence, what form of transportation is used to get to and from work and the annual payment for fire and/or flood insurance.

The 2010 form which will be arriving next month is much shorter and straight-to-the point.

“It should take approximately 10 minutes to fill out,’ said Jodi Leidholm, local census office manager.

Residents will be asked just 10 questions, which include important demographic information such as names, genders, ages and races of those living in households. Also, whether the housing unit is rented or owned.

Form coming in March

Pierce County residents will receive a notice early next month the official Census form is coming. The actual questionnaire will arrive around March 15.

“It’s crucial people fill the form out and mail it back as soon as possible,’ Leidholm said.

If residents do not mail back the form by May 1, census workers will then attempt to contact residences to collect the data, first by phone, and if necessary, face-to-face.

A local complete count committee recently was established to bring awareness of the census count and its importance. The committee met earlier this month to identify which segments of county’s population they need to target. Young, single adults was at the top. Nursing home residents was another group.

The committee plans to release public service announcements in the media as one way to call attention to the census. An information booth at the annual Chamber of Commerce’s spring show will be set up. Banners posted at the local financial institutions and other businesses is likely and there is potential for census flyers to be inserted in church bulletins as well as information submitted to schools.

Seventy-four percent of Pierce County residents did mail back the completed census questionnaire in 2000 and the committee’s goal is to surpass that percentage.

The state’s response rate a decade ago was 72 percent and a goal has been set to reach at least 82 percent, Leidholm said.

Millions of dollars have been spent in bringing awareness of this 2010 census, including advertising during the recent Super Bowl.

Additional funds have been spent in the state to help spread the word about the census and how this is important for North Dakotans to complete.

Leidholm said there are segments of the population that do not participate in the count, one reason why is they are wary of giving out personal information and who sees it.

By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual’s responses whith anyone, including other federal agencies.

Why is it important?

The census provides federal government officials important information, namely population figures, in determining allocation for funds for federal programs and grants. Those funds assist cities and counties in receiving highway aid distribution as well as education funds for school districts. The government allocates nearly $400 billion each year to states and communities based, in part, on census data.

Those figures are also important in economic development. Prospective businesses look at census data in determining possible expansion. The figures also help in determining boundaries for local legislative districts every 10 years.

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