This month you already have or will receive a Census form. Your nation and your community are calling on you to stand up and be counted. Ten simple questions. Won’t you give ten minutes to make your presence known?
It’s simpler than voting. You need not speak for nor support anyone but yourself. It doesn’t ask you to take any positions on issues nor commit yourself to any cause. It’s an act of democracy enshrined in our Constitution – Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3.
If your mail comes to your house, you’ll receive a Census form in the mail. If your mail goes to a post office box, a Census form will be delivered to your house. For both, fill them out and drop them in the mail.
Your response is important because, whether you vote or not, your elected representatives make decisions about how to use your tax dollars in vital programs like schools (head start, school lunches, special education), roads, highways and bridges, hospitals, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, employment centers, emergency services, and more.
You have friends, neighbors, and classmates who depend on these resources. Directly and indirectly, we all benefit from the decisions made using data from the Census.
In 2000, the Census response national average was 72 percent. Refugio County averaged a weak 57 percent response. The cities of Woodsboro and Refugio averaged just 60% and 59%, respectively.
We can do better. I was shocked to find out that Sinton had a response of 69%! Don’t you want to put Sinton to shame in 2010?
Of course, this isn’t just about pride or even the money received from programs and grants. Your response to the Census saves us tax dollars.
For every 1 percent nationally that doesn’t fill out their form and send it back, the Census will spend $80-$90 million sending people to your house, calling you, and sending you letters in the mail to get you to fill out your form and send it in. $80-$90 million!
But, the flip side of this is that for every 1 percent more that turn in their forms without having to be hassled we save $80-$90 million. So, do your wallet a favor by returning your Census form.
Many of us want some assurances of just who receives our information and how it is used.
We’re right to ask such questions. That’s why Title 13 of the United States Code does not allow any of your individual answers to be used for any purpose other than the census and it does not allow your answers to be reported in any way that an individual or household could be identified.
The law also protects this data from any legal process. The courts, immigration, IRS, police, FBI, and the like cannot access this data. In fact, the courts have held that census data is even immune from the powers of the Patriot Act.
While most will find the questions easy to fill out, there’s plenty of help available if you’ve got a question, if you’d like assistance, or if you’ve simply lost your form.
In the coming month, during business hours, the Woodsboro City Hall, the Refugio Chamber of Commerce, and the Texas Workforce Center in Refugio will all have people trained to assist you.
Finally, many of us remember receiving the “dreaded long form.” We can give thanks that the Census has found a better way. Each year, not just on the decade, only 2.5 percent of households will receive an additional more detailed form called the American Communities Survey.
The questions are more thorough, but they come with the same privacy assurances and benefit the community by giving an accurate snapshot of our economic health.
What community wouldn’t need a checkup after this last year? I encourage you to fill it out and turn it in, too.
Do your part to see that our community receives our fair share of the benefits of our tax dollars. Fill out your Census form, send it in, and be counted!
Michael Mumme is a member of the Complete Count Committee for Refugio County, lives in Woodsboro, and is the Pastor of Faith United Church of Woodsboro.