Every 10 years the U.S. government attempts to count everyone living within its borders as part of the U.S. Census. The census is used to determine the number of seats each state will have in the House of Representatives and to distribute hundreds of billions in federal funds for schools, hospitals and transportation projects. Among of things, it also is a factor in many other federal funding decisions, with a total national impact of more than $400 billion per year. Yet because of undercounts, communities often lose out on needed dollars.
Robert M. Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, reminds everyone that they need to be counted. Persons should watch their mailboxes in March for the 10-question form. April 1 is National Census Day, a reminder that everyone needs to send in their forms. Households that don’t respond will be visited by census workers.
“Accurate representation and funding are especially important to people with disabilities because this population relies on many government, community and social services programs,” said Groves. “How-ever, without an accurate count, vital community services such as health care, transportation and other assistance programs may not be accurate.”
“In the past some of these individuals did not participate in the census because of misinformation or reasons related to their disability or circumstances,” Groves said. He is urging census workers to reach out to the disability communty, to ensure their needs are represented.
According to a recent poll, as many as one in five people indicated they will not participate in the census, citing disinterest and distrust of government as the primary reasons why. Youth, people of color and those living in poverty are the most likely to be uncounted.
Significant undercounting of Minnesota’s population occurred in the past two federal counts, which are constitutionally required every decade. In 1990 about 20,000 state residents were overlooked; 10 years later more than 14,000 were missed.
For every 100 people uncounted this year, Minnesota will lose $1 million in federal funds over the next 10 years. For an average family of four, can your family do without $40,000? For more information on the U.S. Census, visit http://2010.census.gov/2010census
Numerous groups are working to encourage census participation. To boost participation among groups most likely to go uncounted the Main Street Project produced a four-language Community Census Guide in English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong.
The guide describes the 2010 Census and addresses the concerns and fears that can get in the way of participation.
The Main Street Project is a Minneapolis based nonprofit providing those living in rural and urban communities the tools they need to more fully participate in all aspects of community life.
The free guide is available at sites around the Twin Cities. It also can be downloaded at www. mainstreetproject.org.
The guides can also picked up at these locations:
St. Paul locations:
• District 7 Planning Council 651-789-7481
• Martin Luther King Center, 270 N. Kent St.
• Holy Rosary Church, 2424 18th Ave. S
• Jordan New Life Community Church, 1922 25th Ave. N
• Hope Community Center, 611 E. Franklin Ave.
• Midtown Global Market, Lake Street and 10th Ave. (former Sears Tower)