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JANUARY 28, 2010

Countdown to 2010 Census

   America is gearing up for its largest domestic undertaking ever. What is it? It’s the US Census, which comes around once every ten years. In March, you’ll get a Census form, which should take about ten minutes to fill out. “We aim to count everyone once, only once and in the right place,” said Wayne Kei, Census partnership coordinator.

   Why? The Census is mandated by the Constitution, Article 1, Section 2. Our forefathers envisioned the Census as a way to ensure an enumeration of the people. The Census ensures that federal resources are distributed among the population fairly. In short, Census means a fair distribution of financial resources for your local community.

   First, the Census counts will determine funding to your community for the next ten years for 170 federal programs. Funding for emergency services, your child’s school, roads and bridges, hospitals, job training, unemployment benefits, Medicaid, senior services, food stamps and more are distributed based on Census counts. Each person counted brings $1,400 in federal funding to your community each year. If a family of four is missed, $56,000 is lost for the decade. 

   Second, the Census count determines how the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, specific to Idaho, and Electoral College votes are distributed to each state. New boundaries for states and school districts will be drawn from Census data to ensure appropriate representation by elected officials. 

   “People don’t realize how much the Census matters,” said Deni Luna, Census media specialist. “We could build more schools, not close them, if we had a better count of children.” Young people, from birth to age 18, are half of those missed by the Census count.

   The 2010 Census form will be the shortest since 1790. “It’s just ten questions,” said Luna. “It’s easy. The questions are basic and confidential.” Questions include name, age, date of birth, gender, race/ethnicity, whether you own your home, and a contact phone number, in case there are questions in reading the form. The form is for persons residing at that location on April 1, 2010, Census Day. 

   Answers are kept confidential for 72 years. Until that time, the Census does not share your answers with any other person, law enforcement or government agency.

   “Even the President of the United States cannot get Census information about a particular person,” said Luna.  All Census employees take an oath to keep information confidential – under penalty of $250,000 and/or five years in prison.

Census jobs available

   Recruiting is underway now for Census work. As many as 1,200 jobs may be available in Northern and Western Idaho, at the height of Census operations this spring. Census takers, called enumerators, will go door to door, to survey those residences that have not returned forms by mail.

   Census jobs are available on a part-time (20 hours) to full-time basis. Applicants must register for and pass a written general skills test and a background check. Test sessions are conducted throughout the state, ensuring that local individuals work with their local communities in obtaining an accurate count.  Bilingual applicants are encouraged to apply. They must be proficient in English, as well. A practice test is available on-line at www.census.gov.

   For more information, call 1-866-861-2010.