Officials: Accurate census count important

Most people are receiving their census forms in the mail this week, and government agencies want to make sure everyone fills them out and sends them in.

Many nonprofit agencies are funded through state and federal programs, and the amount they receive depends on census numbers, Simone Peterson of the Manatee County Neighborhood Services Department noted Wednesday.

Peterson, an intern, gave a presentation Tuesday to the county commission on the importance of having an accurate count of the population.

Funding for about 170 federal programs depends on census data, including Medicaid, foster care, vocational education grants and social services block grants.

If the count is not a true reflection of the number of people in the county, those organizations receive less money to service more people, she said.

Peterson is a second-year student at State College of Florida majoring in mass communication and general business.

She will be heading off to University of South Florida Sarasota/Manatee for her bachelor’s degree.

Like Peterson’s position, many student internships are partially paid with funds from federal programs.

“An accurate count is important for many students,” she said.

There was a high undercount during the last census in 2000, and Florida, along with California, Texas and New York, accounted for 40 percent of the undercount.

The larger counties lost about $2,913 for every person not counted, Peterson said.

This year the U.S. Census Bureau is using a short form with only 10 questions.

For every census form not returned, a census taker will do an in-person followup interview.

Peterson emphasized that information on the census form is confidential and cannot be used to “arrest, detain, deport or get someone in trouble.”

This law was instituted because the federal government wants to count everyone living in the United States.

April 1 is National Census Day and people are encouraged to complete their forms and return them.

More information about the census can be found on the Manatee County Web site at www.mymanatee.org/internet/homemanatee_site.nsf?opendatabase.