Census 2000 will determine how
funds distributed to states

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 1/26/00.

The 2000 Census will draw the new road map for the next decade. On April 1, the public will be asked to fill out a survey that will lead the country into the next millennium.

The answers to the 2000 Census will have a direct impact on how the federal and state governments spend your tax dollars, said Congressman David Minge of the second congressional district.

The census answers the questions of where to improve public transportation or roads, where new housing should be built, where we need to do better at preserving green spaces and conserving natural resources, and how we address many other issues.

Aggregate data from the census is a matter of public record and the Census Bureau has said it wants the 2000 census to be the most useful to the public. Researchers, historians, disaster relief organizations, disease control officials, and many others will use this data to focus their efforts. Developers will also use the data to make decisions about where to place businesses and what products are suitable to market in your community.

According to the Census Bureau, under counting is a serious problem and children are the most often overlooked in the census. More than half of all uncounted persons are under age 18. Minge said, flawed data can lead to lower federal and state appropriations for education, Head Start, nutrition programs, and other initiatives that help children.

Census data directly affects decisions made of national and local importance, including education, employment, veterans' services, public health care, rural development, the environment, transportation, and housing.

Nationally, the 1990 census missed 4.4 percent of African Americans; five percent of persons of Hispanic origin; 2.3 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders; and 12.2 percent of American Indians living on reservations. Children had the highest under count of all, two million children were missed. In 1990, children made up about 26 percent of the entire U.S. population and made up 52 percent of the under count.

As a result of the inaccuracy of the 1990 census, many individuals were denied a voice in their government, and many communities were short changed on federal and state spending for schools, crime prevention, health care, and transportation. The communities that were short changed were those that depend most on social services and economic development programs.

As a result of the 1990 under count, Minneapolis lost over $8.8 million in federal and state funds during the 1990s. According to the Census Bureau, more than eight million people were left out of the 1990 census while more than four million were counted twice.

These numbers translate to two million youngsters whose states and local communities did not get their fair share of the $180 billion in federal funding that is distributed on the basis of census data.

Census data provides the basis for many decisions that federal, state, and local officials have to make, such as how many child care facilities are needed and where they should be located; how many people will be eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits; what kinds of services will be needed to care for people with disabilities, the elderly, and the homeless; what level of resources will be needed to keep kids in school, to build recreation sites, and give teenagers job training.

Census information is used for:
•Child care and development block grants to defend the health of infants, children, and families who use child care services;

•The Head Start program which offers a wide range of medical, dental, mental health education, and language development services;

•The Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Enforcement Grant; •The Crime Victims Assistance program and Public Safety Partnership and Community Policing Grants which helps kids; and

•Programs run for neglected and delinquent children, child care of families at risk of welfare dependency, education for homeless children, and special education programs.

All of these programs and dozens more are run by local agencies with federal funds distributed on the basis of the census data. When the 1990 census miscounted the children, listing some where they were not and leaving two million others out of the tally altogether, funding that should have helped them was not available.

The Children Defense Fund looked at the under counts measured in 188 cities in 42 states. If the under counts for the 2000 Census are no greater than they were in 1990, the census will miss more than 6,400 children in Miami; 52,000 children in Los Angeles, 18,000 children in Philadelphia, and almost 4,700 children in Cincinnati.

Government officials aren't the only ones who will be using Census 2000 data come 2001. People from many walks of life use census data to advocate for causes, research markets, target advertising, locate pools of skilled workers, prevent diseases, even rescue disaster victims.

Senior citizen groups often draw on statistics from the census to support their desire for community centers. Census numbers help businesses reduce their financial risk and broaden their markets.

The Census Bureau needs to recruit about 2.8 million candidates to fill temporary census taker positions in every neighborhood, community, and township across the nation, including thousands in Minnesota.

There are some actions we can take as concerned Minnesotans, to help ensure a complete and accurate census count, according to Mary Kiffmeyer, secretary of state.

They are:
•Be sure to complete the census questionnaire that comes in the mail, if you receive one. The form should arrive shortly before April 1, and should be completed and returned on or shortly after that date. If you do not receive a form in the mail, you can expect a visit from a census taker who will ask for information about your household.

•Encourage everyone you know to complete their census forms. Remember, it is the aggregate count of our population that gives us our due voice and strength in Washington and in St. Paul, and it is through getting a complete count of everyone that our state is able to plan effectively for the future.

•It is in our interest to make certain that everyone living in Minnesota gets counted, including noncitizens residing here, people not proficient in English, people who move often, and people who might for other reasons be difficult to count through the usual response mechanisms.

•Consider enlisting as a census worker. Census jobs pay competitive wages, and there are positions available in every corner of Minnesota. Interested job applicants may call 1-888-325-7733 to learn more.

Census count starts early in Alaska

The 2000 Census began at sunup in Unalakleet, Alaska, on Jan. 20.

By April 1, the official start of the census count, the remote fishing village on the Bering Strait would be out at fishing camps dozens of miles up the Unalakleet River hauling in salmon and trout.

Kenneth Prewitt, Census Bureau director, said it matters how well we count each other, because a census only works if we leave no one out. The march into rural Alaska was part of a massive outreach campaign.

At stake is an estimated $180 billion in federal funds distributed on the basis of census populations. Nowhere are the stakes higher than in Alaska, whose 270 rural villages depend heavily on outside aid.

Census takers tell each village that each person not counted could cost the community thousands of dollars in funding.

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