Push to get accurate Census count continues
Officials aim to get right-sized piece of annual $435 billion pie
Drycleaners, ethnic grocery stores, churches and other gathering spots have joined a three-year push across Montgomery County to ensure that all residents are counted in the 2010 U.S. Census, which begins in March. Census Day is April 1, 2010.
"It's critical that we reach into every neighborhood, every ethnic community and every demographic to reinforce that the Census is easy, important and confidential," said Britta Monaco, spokeswoman for the City of Gaithersburg.
U.S. Census officials have pinpointed Gaithersburg, Germantown, Rockville, Takoma Park, Silver Spring and Wheaton as "hard-to-count" areas, based on previous experiences receiving an under-average response rates and current demographics.
The census is a count of everyone living in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. affiliated islands. Counts are taken every 10 years and participation is mandated by law. The federal government awards approximately $435 billion annually to states and communities basing decisions partly on Census data.
Gaithersburg wants to get its share, said Gaithersburg City Manager Angel Jones during recent budget talks. The city doesn't receive approximately $1,000 per uncounted resident per year in federal funding, said Monaco, who is working with the Upcounty Latino Network and more than 100 service providers to encourage participation.
In 2000, the U.S. Census recorded an estimated population of 52,613 in Gaithersburg — updated to 58,744 in 2008 — based on returned surveys and site visits to homes where residents did not respond.
The city calculates its population at 60,118, using planning figures and a multiplier suggesting a certain number of persons per household, depending on whether the home is a single-family home, townhouse, garden or high-rise apartment or group institution, such as a nursing home.
Census data guide decisions on where to build roads, hospitals, child care and senior centers, schools and more and affects an area's representation in Congress, as well as state and local governments, according to Fernando E. Armstrong, regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Businesses use the data to decide where to put retail stores and housing.
The city uses Census data to determine its operating and planning budgets and address rising needs for city services, Monaco said.
Federal law protects personal information respondents provide, but not everyone trusts the system, according to Census officials, who have launched a $326 million outreach campaign.
The census questionnaire is the shortest in history, billed as 10 questions that take about 10 minutes to complete. Title 13 of U.S. code says the information cannot be shared with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement.