Tuesday, April 6, 2010 • Census Bureau encourages residents to return census forms

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, April 6, 2010, edition of the Lassen County Times.

The U.S. Census Bureau wants Lassen County and Northern California residents to make sure they’re counted by mailing back their census forms.

As of Tuesday, March 30, the national mail back participation rate was 50 percent. California was slightly behind the national average with 48 percent. Figures for Susanville and Lassen County were not available.

The Northern California counties with the highest participation rates were Butte, Napa, Shasta and Sonoma counties, which each were at 53 percent. Lagging behind were Mono County, with 20 percent, and Alpine County, with 16 percent. The Census Bureau’s Northern California region stretches from Santa Cruz County in the south and the Oregon border in the north.

“Every household that fails to send back their census form by mail must be visited by a census taker starting in May — at a significant taxpayer cost,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “The easiest and best way to be counted in the census is to fill out and return your form by mail.”

The emphasis on encouraging mail participation in the census is a practical one. It costs the government just the price of a postage stamp when a household mails back the form. However, it costs the Census Bureau $57 to follow up with a non-responsive household.

For every percentage point increase in mail response, taxpayers will save an estimated $85 million in federal funds. Those funds would otherwise be required to send census takers to collect census responses in person from households that don’t mail back the forms.

The Census Bureau is urging communities nationwide to take charge of their census mail participation rates, which are posted at 1 p.m. Pacific Standard Time each day. Anyone can visit the 2010 Census Web site at 2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/ to track how well their state, county or neighborhood is doing in mailing in their forms.

From the same interactive rate map, anyone can also embed a Participation Rate Tracker “widget” on their Web site that will display an area’s latest participation rates.

Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the census takes place every 10 years. Census data determine boundaries for state and local legislative and congressional districts. More than $400 billion in federal funds are distributed annually based on census data to pay for local programs and services, such as schools, highways, vocational training, emergency services, hospitals, unemployment benefits and much more.