WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called for all Americans to participate in the 2010 census for the sake of their communities at a congressional kick-off event Wednesday.
Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, hosted the event with Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves.
In anticipation of Census Day, April 1, Hoyer emphasized the need to count every American living within the borders.
An undercount, Hoyer said, will lead to insufficient resources for the community.
“It goes from counting that one person,” Hoyer said, “to having those dollars to meet the needs that one person creates for the community, 10 fold, 100 fold, 1,000 fold, 100,000 fold — That’s why the census is about community.”
Census takers have already started delivering questionnaires to about 12 million households in rural areas of the nation.
Non-rural residents should expect their questionnaires in the mail starting March 15. And non-responsive households should expect census enumerators at their door to conduct in-person interviews beginning May 1.
About one-third of American residents fail to mail back the survey, according to the Census Bureau. And illegal immigrants and those distrustful and fearful of sharing information with the government are identified as “hard to count.”
Those in fear of the census, Hoyer said, need to be convinced otherwise.
“We want everyone in America to know that participating in the census can’t hurt you in any way,” Hoyer said.
“Hard to count” areas, according to the Census Bureau, are places with high concentrations of people living in poverty or receiving public assistance, rental housing and areas with a low census questionnaire mail response rate in the 2000 census. Difficult to count groups include the disabled, female-headed households and households where English is not spoken as the first language.
Maryland politicians are helping the Census Bureau spread awareness in hopes of boosting response rates.
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, will host a community discussion Friday in Silver Spring to discuss the census’ significance and what programs are in place to ensure the whole community is counted.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, announced his partnership with the Census Bureau Wednesday.
“Many groups in Maryland are historically undercounted in the census, but this year, I am dedicated to ensuring each resident understands the importance of participating in the 2010 census,” Cummings said in a statement. “I am … committed to helping increase overall participation in 2010.”
Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th District, which includes portions of Baltimore and Howard counties and Baltimore City.
Baltimore City had a 60 percent participation rate in the 2000 census, which tied the jurisdiction with Worcester County for the third lowest rate in the state.
Maryland’s participation in the last decennial census was ranked at 74 percent — 2 percent higher than the national average, according the Census Bureau.
The census collects basic information, such as age, sex, race, Hispanic or Latino origin and household ownership status through its 10-question survey.
Collected data will affect funding and political representation in all communities.
“Sitting out … does hurt your neighbor,” Hoyer said, “not only yourself, but your neighbor as well.”