County encourages Census participation to ensure subsidies
December 3, 2009 · 12:46 PM
Kitsap County is hosting a meeting between community leaders and the U.S. Census Bureau to encourage participation in the upcoming Census, but officials are having little success reaching their intended audience.
“We want to communicate that the Census is easy to complete and safe,” said Census Partnership Specialist Eric Davenport. “It’s also important from the standpoint of getting the appropriation to which the community is entitled, as far as dollars and representation.”
“We’ve sent out about 30 letters to different community members to help us find ways to count people who are reluctant to participate in the Census,” said Kitsap County Department of Community Development Larry Keeton. “We haven’t gotten the response we would have liked.”
Holly Anderson, Keeton’s administrative assistant, said the letter drew only four replies. She said she was preparing a second more specific letter with a wider circulation to be sent out this week.
“We’re simply doing a follow-up here to a previous letter sent to some and a first time request to others to attend and be a member of the Complete Count Committee,” Keeton said in a draft of the second letter. “There are numerous ways to be involved that will not require much of your time.”
Anderson has been following up the letter with phone calls, with little success.
Part of the problem is that groups are not always well organized. For example, when she called the Pacific Northwest Ilocandia Association, a local Filipino group, she was brushed off.
But the group’s president, Rudy Nartea, said Wednesday he would be willing to hear the county’s viewpoint and pass it onto his contituents.
Nartea said that he had no preconceived notions about the Census, or its possible privacy fears about the process.
It boils down to money. Kitsap County, like other government entities, is struggling for funds, and an accurate Census count can act as a funding source.
According to Keeton, each person counted by the Census generates $1,400 of federal funds that can be allocated to different agencies.
The Census, which gathers data about everyone in the country, is a constitutionally mandated process that has occurred at the change of every decade since 1790.
It seeks to gather an accurate head count of every person residing in the United States at that particular date.
Both Keeton and Davenport acknowledge that not everyone trusts the government to protect personal data, but stressed that anything collected for the Census is protected from misuse.
In particular, Davenport enumerates instances where one branch of the government made unsuccessful attempts to gain access to Census data for non-Census uses.
“One of our most important messages is that anything we collect is protected and is not used anywhere else,” Davenport said. “We work independently of any other agency.”
If this is taken at face value, the Census bureau is promising that anyone with an outstanding warrant or illegal residence can participate in the Census without fear the authorities will break down their door.
Keeton said an illegal alien who participates in the Census will be able to document his or her residency at a certain time, which can be used in the future to prove they have resided in the country for a certain time period.
This might help them in the future, should the government grant amnesty to certain illegal aliens.
Even so, he acknowledges this logic “will be a hard sell to some people.”
Currently, the Census is gathering address information to mail out the Census forms. They will be sent out on March 15, with an April 10 deadline for their return.
Most people will get the eight-question “short form,” which asks the number of people in the residents, whether they rent or own, name, telephone number, age, sex, and race.
After the deadline, the bureau makes a special effort to contact anyone who has not submitted the form, and aids them in its completion.
“We need this headcount,” Anderson said. “Participating in the Census can help people.”
While Thursday’s meeting is not specifically open to the public, the county is interested in the participation of any community leaders who can help convince people to participate in the Census.
For information contact Anderson, (360) 337-4402 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.