Saturday, April 1 is the official Census Day, and Mayor Don Wesely reminded Lincoln residents today of the importance of filling out and returning their census forms.
"The census numbers are used to determine the distribution of more than $100 billion in federal funds," Wesely said. "These are funds for roads and highways, medical care, aging services, education and disaster assistance. These are areas that touch every one of us every day."
Census figures are also used to determine the boundaries of state legislative districts and how many representatives each state will have in the U.S. Congress.
Most households received a census questionnaire by mail earlier this month, and census takers will deliver forms to the remaining households. The short form asks seven questions: name, sex, age, relationship, Hispanic origin, race and housing tenure. One in six people will receive the long form, which asks those seven questions plus 27 more. The extra questions ask about such areas as education, ancestry, employment, disability and house heating fuel.
"Concern has been expressed about some of the questions on the long form, but there is a need behind every question," said Ed Baumann, office manager with the Lincoln Census Office. "The long form provides the detail needed for a wide range of government programs and federal requirements. Community leaders also need those details for planning such activities as neighborhood revitalization and economic development." Baumann said all information received by the census is confidential.
Census officials are also making an extra effort this year to get an accurate count of minorities, who have traditionally been undercounted in past censuses. Mayor's Wesely's news conference this morning was held at the Hispanic Community Center, the site of one of the Questionnaire Assistance Centers which has interpreters available to help those not proficient in English. Joel Gajardo, Director of the Center, and the Rev. Norm Leach, Director of the Lincoln Interfaith Council, are co-chairs of the city's Complete Count Committee.
The Census Bureau is posting initial response rates on its web site at www.census.gov. Nebraska's initial response rate was 56 percent as of March 30, the second best response rate in the nation. Lincoln and Lancaster County have response rates of 60 percent.