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County to help with census

COVINGTON - With state and federal funding at stake, the Newton County government has pledged its involvement in getting the word out about the 2010 Census.

Carolyn Aidman, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, told county commissioners at a recent meeting that the census count is used to determine how much funding is available to the county for various programs and projects, such as Title 1 grants to educational agencies; Head Start programs; Women, Infants and Children food grants; public transportation; programs for the elderly; emergency food and shelter; and road rehabilitation and construction.

During the next decade, $3 trillion in federal aid will be dispersed to states.

"You have a big dog in this hunt," Aidman said.

For Census 2000, about 68 percent of Newton County residents responded to census forms sent via mail, Aidman said.

Areas with the lowest response were Porterdale, at 51 percent, and Mansfield, at 55 percent.

"Those are two areas where you might want to think about how to get a better and complete count," she said.

Typically, those who do not respond are low-income, "linguistically isolated" people, and those who don't trust the government, Aidman said.

That's why it's important for the local community to get involved and let residents know that census information is important and also confidential, she said. The Census Bureau is encouraging local governments to form Complete Count Committees to increase awareness and motivate residents to respond to the census.

"I think what we will be doing is trying to coordinate a committee that will help facilitate this," Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan said. "I'm hoping I can talk to one of our volunteer partner programs to head this up."

Morgan said the county will also try to use local churches to get the word out.

"The census count is very important for the funding awarded to Newton County and also for growth projections and trends that we plan for in the future," she said. "We want to be sure we get an accurate count next year for Newton County."

Aidman said the clerk of courts has agreed to run an educational video about the census for jurors. She also encouraged the county to put information on its Web site.

Census Day is April 1, 2010. Questionnaires will be mailed or delivered to households in February and March.

Another form will be mailed in 10 days to households that have not responded. If there is still no response, census workers will begin knocking on doors to gather information.

The Census Bureau will provide approximately 1.4 million jobs across the country during this process. Hiring will begin in the fall.

For more information about the 2010 Census, visit www.census.gov/2010census.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.