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The U.S. Census is on Its Way

Although it’s being advertised nationwide and tons of people are talking about it, many still don’t realize just how important the U.S. Census really is. KSMU’s Royal Yates spoke with the regional Census Bureau in Kansas City and has this report.

Springfield residents began receiving notifications from the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this month to let them know that their Census packet is on its way. Although many people have heard about the census, they don’t understand why they should fill it out.

The U.S. Census is delivered to over 120 million residences nationwide and determines how more than 400 billion dollars will be distributed amongst the states. This money goes toward government programs, healthcare, education, and several other things that most people wouldn’t expect like fixing potholes and building senior centers.

Although it seems like a common service, many people are worried about the census because they want to protect their personal information. Sydnee Chattin-Reynolds is the Deputy Regional Director for the Kansas City Regional Census Center, and she says information gathered in the census is confidential.

“We could be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned up to five years if we ever divulge personal information. Also, we don’t ask for certain personal information like social security or driver’s license numbers. All we want to know is how many people live in the household, and a few basic questions,” Reynolds said.

Since the national census is such a big operation, it takes a lot of money to fund. Mailing the forms back costs a household the price of a stamp: 44 cents. If the bureau has to send someone out to gather census information, it costs $57 on average per household.

Reynolds says “For every 1% of our population that sends it back, it can save roughly $85 million. In 2000, we actually were able to show a savings. We were actually able to return over $300 million to the treasury department because of our advertising – it was tied directly to that.”

The U.S. Census Bureau asks that all information packets be returned by mid-April. Census takers will begin going door-to-door May 1st.

Article I of the United States Constitution mandates that a census be taken every ten years. It’s how the country determines how many seats each state has in Congress.

For KSMU News, I’m Royal Yates.