DAVIE — With millions of dollars hanging in the balance, the Broward County Complete Count Committee pulled out all the stops recently to emphasize the importance of full participation in next year’s Census from all Broward residents, legal or not.
County and federal Census officials held nearly 120 people’s attention with words and song at the 2010 Census Partners Expo at the Tree Tops Park in Davie on Nov. 5.

The crowd was serenaded by an all-male group singing, “Mail your Census, your Broward Census, let’s make our future bright, mail your Census your Broward Census, Black or Brown or White.”

Every year, the federal government allocates over $400 billion to states and their communities, partially based on the head count from the Census data collected every 10 years.

It is estimated that in 2000, Broward County was undercounted by 20,000. For each uncounted person, the loss of funding is an estimated $1,300 per year, meaning the county missed out on $260 million over the last ten years.

This time around, the U.S. Census Bureau is making a large effort to reach everybody, including Broward’s many diverse communities, by employing Census workers who culturally reflect each community.

“If I’m of Haitian descent… if a stranger comes to my door, I might not open my door for that person. If I have someone that looks like me and speaks like me, then I will respond to that person,” Lauderhill Commissioner M. Margaret Bates said.

Sandra Harris, executive director of Broward County legislative delegation, said she wants Broward to get its piece of the multi-billion dollar pie.

“Well its interesting, the count is used to determine how much money we get from the federal government, but it’s also used to determine where roads will be, and businesses can use the data, the total counts, to determine where they want to open businesses….so it’s as much about getting the money from the federal government for schools and business, so it counts for everything that happens in the next 10 years.”

The data is also used to redraw congressional boundaries, thereby affecting numbers during voting.

To simplify the process, Census forms have been streamlined into a 10 minute questionnaire that will be mailed out to every Broward household in March, and are expected to be mailed back by April 1, Census day. Those who don’t reply will be visited by Census workers between April and July to complete the Census in person.

George Grandy Jr., a regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said we can’t afford to undercount.

“It’s more important since we’re in this state of the economy, that we do get more participation so we can analyze and see where those folks are. People who are jobless, we need to know that information, so it’s more important, as far as participation is concerned, due to the state of the economy,” Grandy said.

For illegal immigrants or anyone concerned about keeping their information private, the Census Bureau protects the information for 72 years.  Bates said she does not want identity protection to be a concern.

“We have to emphasize the fact that we know we have a lot of illegal immigrants here, but we’re not concerned about that,” she said. “If you’re here, if you’re utilizing our services, we need to be able to count you. The information for whether or not you’re legal will not be transmitted anywhere, so all we want is to know that there is a live body in there.’’