Census important for many reasons

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting the word out about next year’s U.S. Census is critical to federal monetary aid for the Black Belt.

Officials say that starts by partnering with local community leaders. Darryl A. Lee and his team with the U.S. Census Bureau completed a workshop in Selma on Tuesday and urged elected officials, educators and religious leaders at a luncheon to help encourage participation from families when the census is taken April 1, 2010.

These groups have formed a Complete Count Committee, which works to ensure every person possible is counted in this area.

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An accurate count of citizens determines how much of the $3 trillion the federal government will dole out in the three years following the census. It also determines each area’s representation in Congress.

“I want to make sure Selma and the Black Belt gets its fair share,” said Lee, senior partnership specialist. “The ball is moving very fast now.”

The Census Bureau has offered jobs to 60 local people, according to Debra Reeves-Howard of Selma CareerLink. Those people will begin the first of two five-day training sessions on March 27. After training, they will canvass the region to verify addresses.

Selma City Schools superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan said one way the school system could help is by getting the word out to parents through school children.

“There is a curriculum for the census that’s been in the schools,” Obasohan said. “That is another way we can encourage our students and inform them about this important project.”

Lee said the Census Bureau does not release its information to other entities, even the IRS, for 72 years. This year every house will get a seven-question short form that takes about 10 minutes to complete.

“If you’re behind on your child support, we don’t care. If you’re illegal, we don’t care. We just want to get everybody counted,” Lee said.