For most Americans, the United States Census is nothing more than a once-a-decade hassle: The questionnaire is too long, too intrusive and too burdensome.
But as an elected official for Lauderhill, I know that the Census is an opportunity to improve the quality of life for each community’s residents.
The Census affects many things in our cities, from political representation to the allocation of valuable government dollars. In fact, in 2000, the Census Monitoring Board found that just one uncounted person in Broward County meant the loss of an estimated $1,300 in funding.
If 1,000 people do not complete the Census, it may result in the loss $1.3 million in government funding for necessities such as roads, bridges, education and public safety in Broward County.
As we begin to receive our Census packets, here is some important information to remember:
Census Day is April 1, 2010
Residents throughout the county will receive their Census packets during the month of March, and must return them via mail by April 1, 2010. Any resident who does not complete the questionnaire will be visited by Census employees between April and June.
Each household must complete a Census questionnaire. The packet can be completed in ten short minutes. The 2010 Census questionnaire asks only a few simple questions of each person: name, marital status, gender, age, date of birth, race, and whether the home is rented or owned.
Every Census Bureau worker takes an oath to protect the confidentiality of the questionnaires for life. In addition, it is actually illegal to share any information with other agencies, businesses or individuals, including welfare or immigration. Violation of this law can result in incarceration and a hefty fine.
Knowing the true number of residents in each community is crucial to our well-being, now and in the future. The Census guarantees that Florida has accurate representation in Congress. It determines how many seats each state receives in the House of Representatives. Local, state and federal governments also use Census data to allocate funds for programs such as public safety and fixing or building roads and bridges.
Census information helps provide funding for community programs such as child-care and senior citizen centers, emergency responders and hospitals. The data shows areas of new families and population growth that can determine school locations, new schools and needed dollars for important educational programs in danger.
Businesses also use Census data to determine where to expand their facilities. Some businesses look for crowded communities in need of more facilities like supermarkets or restaurants. Others are interested in potential growth, such as shopping centers and new housing.
The 2010 Census is safe, easy and ultimately important to the future of our communities. An accurate count in Broward County can give us a stronger voice in Congress, much-needed dollars for services and programs, and the chance to grow and thrive. For more information on the 2010 Census, please visit www.broward.org/census2010.
Stand up and be counted, Broward County! It’s in your hands.
M. Margaret Bates is a Lauderhill city commissioner.