Census takers will come calling this month
With $13,000 per person in federal funding on the line, the Minnesota 2010 Census organizers are gearing up for next month's Census distribution.
The Census is nothing new -- it's been around since 1790, and is taken every 10 years. But in Minnesota, this year's Census is particularly important. The results determine how much aid the state receives from the federal government, but there are also some political implications.
Minnesota stands to lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives if the state doesn't produce the kind of numbers needed to support its current eight members. Projections show the state could be about 1,100 people short this decade.
Besides that, the federal government distributes $400 billion in funding to states, based on the numbers garnered from the Census. The federal government allocates $13,000 per person in federal funding. In order to get the maximum allotment, every person in Minnesota needs to be counted.
The 2010 Census forms will arrive in mailboxes in just a couple of weeks. They'll come in manila envelopes, said Mario Vargas, Minnesota campaign coordinator for Census 2010.
A long form was distributed to random individuals in 2000, but that form is no longer being used. The form itself should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.
Census folks hope to see completed forms coming in by April 1. Any home that does not submit a Census form by the end of April will be placed on a "nonresponse" list.
In May, Census takers will be deployed to go into Minnesota neighborhoods. The Census takers will go to a residence as many as six times, Vargas said, to get the information they need. They're trained to go any length possible -- that means they are authorized to speak to neighbors and ask what is a good time to stop at the home, or to come at any time of the day.
The Census is designed to take a head-count of the state, and determine some of the demographics within the state. Information recorded is strictly confidential. It is against the law for any information gathered by the Census Bureau to be given out for 72 years.
"It has withstood every challenge," Vargas said. "Nobody, including the President of the United States can have access to that information.
"It is one of the reasons the Census Bureau has been so successful, because we can protect that information with the utmost confidentiality. The IRS, INS have tried to access that information and they have not been able to obtain any information."
Census takers are sworn to uphold the confidentiality of the Census. Releasing any information is punishable by a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
For many residences, the question of who should be counted is fairly straightforward -- the head of the household is the first, followed by each family member in age.
Some family members -- college students, perhaps -- who are away for several months should not be included in the head count. The Census Bureau has a team that will go into college dormitories and apartments to seek out those transitional residents.
If an extended family member is staying in the household and has been there for more than six months, that individual should be counted. The Census Bureau doesn't care about the circumstances of the living arrangements, Vargas said, they just want to make sure everyone is counted and counted accurately.
"That's one thing you see with the housing crisis -- entire families kind of co-habitating. There are extended families staying, immigrant families, friends, any number of situations. It is critical that if you live in that household you should be counted and you need to be counted, period," Vargas said.
Minnesota 2010 Census has set up a web site that answers a lot of the questions people might have about the upcoming Census, www.mn2010census.org. Farmington City Hall has been designated as a local census office, and information is available there by calling 651-280-6800.
The final numbers will be submitted to President Obama by the end of the year. Once those numbers are compiled, Vargas said, the state should have a better sense of whether a congressional seat was lost.