Census forms in mail

COVINGTON -- Questionnaires for the 2010 Census are being mailed out across the nation, and the local Complete Count Committee is asking all Newton County residents to respond.

This year, the Census Bureau has adopted the slogan, "10 Questions, 10 Minutes" to promote its new, abbreviated form.

Information that will be asked includes whether a housing unit is rented or owned, the address of the residence and names, genders, ages and races of those living in the household.

The individual who owns or rents the housing unit should complete the questionnaire on behalf of every one living there, relatives and nonrelatives.

More detailed socioeconomic information previously collected through the decennial census will be asked of a small percentage of the population through the annual American Community Survey.

The shorter questionnaire is estimated to take 10 minutes or less to fill out.

"It's not that hard. It takes that long to log onto your bank's Web site and write a check. But if you don't fill it out, someone will come knocking on your door," said Shannon Davis, a member of the local Complete Count Committee formed to raise awareness about the census.

Households that do not respond may receive a replacement questionnaire in early April or a visit from a census taker.

Census takers will visit households that did not return a questionnaire by mail May through July. Census workers will undertake extensive operations to get in-person counts of those without a permanent residence or living in group quarters, such as college dormitories, military barracks, nursing homes and shelters, and those displaced by natural disasters.

The U.S. Constitution requires a national census once every 10 years to count the population. Census data determines boundaries for state and local legislative and congressional districts.

Each year the federal government allocates more than $400 billion to states and local governments based in part on census data. Funds for community services such as school lunch programs, senior citizen centers and new construction such as highways and hospitals are based on census data.

"From an economic development standpoint, an accurate census head count helps us to create the quality of life locally that we're striving for. Retailers, businesses and industries monitor census information to see where a community is headed, where its growth patterns are," said Davis, who also is the developer of economic development for the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

For more information on the census, visit www.2010.census.gov or stop by the Covington-Newton County Welcome Center at 2101 Clark St. in Covington.