Athens moves forward with census

The 2010 Census is well underway in Athens and local officials, citizens, and students are helping to promote.

Census promoters take ideas from the national and regional offices.

John Lowery, the local census office manager, said the majority of publicity for the census is provided by the national office.

“They are primarily responsible for promoting the census,” Lowery said. “They have the advertising budget. We don’t.”

The Athens branch of the Local Census Office, which covers 14 counties, uses Field Operations Staff and enumerators to go into the community and build awareness about the census. Enumerators travel door-to-door during the census to gather addresses of community members.

The staff has contacted on-campus housing supervisors as well as off-campus housing facilities to assist students with the questionnaire. They also pass out fliers.

The office began preparing for the census last spring. Enumerators gathered U.S. Postal Service approved addresses from the community to build a database.

The office also has Partnership Specialists whose primary responsibility is to promote the census by having conversations with local community members.

The local government also plays a major role. The Athens-Clarke County Planning Department announced on its website that, “Mayor Heidi Davison [has] appointed the Complete County Committee (CCC)” for the region. The program consists of government leaders and community members willing to build awareness of the census.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Web site, the CCC members can do the following:  

· Organize a team of local people who can provide the cultural and community insights   

  necessary to build 2010 Census awareness efforts.

· Promote the value of accurate and complete census data.

· Have a positive impact on the questionnaire response rate.

The Athens-Clarke County division includes members from the Department of Family and Children Services, the Council on Aging, the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, the Clarke County School Board and other organizations.

CCC programs play a major role in making sure every person in a specific community is counted.

Julie Morgan, special projects coordinator planner II at the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department, said that Athens uses the CCC to do most of its promotion concerning the census.

“The Complete Count Committee consists of community leaders who have contact with harder to count populations,” Morgan said. “Students are difficult to count. So are the homeless and Hispanic populations.”

The committee also holds various programs in different schools around the city.

“The Clarke-County school district applied for grants and received a lot of money to build census awareness,” Morgan said.

She adds that the shirts help bring information home to parents. They made about 7,000 shirts for students.

She also said that the CCC “steals ideas all the time from the national website.” The committee is beneficial because each member of the committee knows the questions and concerns of his or her group and can make the most productive efforts based on that knowledge.

At the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, some faculty and staff at the Applied Demography Program are filling “the information gap between data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and what local governments collect on their own.” The group collects population data beneficial to local and state governments in planning their budgets.

Students can also participate in the action. The U.S. Census Bureau Web site provides information for students and graduates to apply for jobs.

Emily Brown, 20, a sophomore political science major from Cumming said the census form wasn’t that hard to fill out. She said the census is helpful because “it gives the city money and Athens really needs it.”

As far as awareness is concerned, Brown has seen some of it.

“I saw someone in Tate,” Brown said. “And I got a couple extra mailings. I’ve also seen stuff about it on the news.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Web site, the estimated population of Clarke County in 2008 was 114,737. This is a 13.1 percent increase from the estimated 101,487 people living in the county in April 2000. The 2000 census data shows that Clarke County was the 14th most populous county in the state. The estimated population of Athens in 2006 was 111,580. This is an 11.3 percent increase from the 2000 estimate of 100,266. University of Georgia students make up a good portion of the population with 32,938 people in the fall of 2007.

The constitutionally required U.S. Census takes place every 10 years. The goal is to count every person living in the United States “to help determine the number of seats your state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

But this is not the only reason the census takes place.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Web site, “the census will help communities receive $400 billion dollars in federal funds each year for things like: hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels and other public-works projects, and emergency services.”

The website also states that not completing the census can have negative effects on a community.  Not only will it affect the amount of federal dollars the community receives, but the census is also “one of the most powerful ways of having a voice in the United States.”

The 2010 Census questionnaire will be mailed to every address. It is the shortest census questionnaire since the first one in 1790. Citizens must only fill out their name, gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship, and if people living in the house own or rent their homes. The census questionnaire is only available in print form. The bureau is required under federal law to protect the confidentiality of all personal date it receives.

For more information, please visit the U.S. Census Bureau Web site, http://2010.census.gov, or call the local census bureau office at 706-534-5910.

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