Bureau looks for high census returns

Census questionnaires have been delivered and more than 115 million households throughout the nation have received the once-a-decade surveys.

The tough part is getting people to mail them back to the Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau is trying to beat the mail response rate of 1990 when 65 percent of households returned them. For each 1 percent increase of people who return the questionnaires, the bureau estimates taxpayers save $25 million in census costs.

"The Census Bureau will send a census taker to each household that does not mail back its questionnaire," said Susan A. Lavin, Director of the Census Bureau Denver Region. "This is a very labor intensive and time-consuming process, which costs taxpayers more in the long run. We'd like to get as many people to mail back their forms as possible."

Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt has challenged elected officials to increase the initial mail response in local communities over the last five months. The goal is to increase return rates by at least 5 percent above the 1990 response rates.

Census forms are being processed as they are received. The system is able to determine which addresses have returned forms and which ones have not. People not returning forms can expect a knock at the door from census takers beginning April 27. The process will continue through July, and requires thousands of temporary census workers.

The Census Bureau guarantees the answers on the forms will remain confidential. All census employees have taken an oath of confidentiality and are subject to a $5,000 fine and a year in prison if they break that oath.

Information from the 2000 Census will decide how $185 billion in federal funds will be shared among the nation's communities. The information will also determine how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives go to each state.

According to Gary Peer, recruiting assistant for Moffat County, the count in Moffat County will be important for future facilities and funding in the area.

"Over a 10-year period Moffat County receives about $1,600 for every person accounted for," said Peer. "Things such as improvements on the ice arena, new rest rooms at the fairgrounds, the Woodbury baseball and soccer complex, Loudy-Simpson recreation area and athletic fields and hospital improvements are all due to federal funds that are distributed based on the Census count."

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