It's in our hands. A simple sentence that sends a powerful message, this tagline for the 2010 Decennial Census is intended to remind every resident of Peoria County that participating in this year's count is "in our hands." But what, exactly, is it? Nothing short of $400 billion and equal representation.
The federal government allocates $400 billion annually to communities nationwide based on population. The greater the population of Peoria County, therefore, the more federal tax money will flow back to our community to improve transportation, social services and other programs that enhance our quality of life.
An accurate census also ensures accurate representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Following the census, congressional boundaries will be redrawn based on state populations. If the population of Illinois has grown, we will receive a proportional increase of representation in Congress, leading to greater benefits for the people of Peoria County. Population numbers are also used to ensure equal representation at local and state government levels.
For these reasons—allocation of federal dollars and equal representation in legislative jurisdictions—participation in the census is critical for Peoria County residents. The census, mandated by the U.S. Constitution, has been taken every 10 years since 1790. To encourage participation in this census, the Census Bureau has simplified the questionnaire. Questionnaires will begin arriving at local households in mid-March, to be returned by Census Day, April 1, 2010.
If census questionnaires are not returned by mail, census enumerators will visit households that did not respond. Since up to six attempts are made for each non-responsive household, this method is very expensive. In fact, it is estimated by the Census Bureau that for each percentage point of population that does not return the form, it costs taxpayers $80 to $90 million for enumerators to make personal visits.
Peoria County had a 73-percent response rate by mail in 2000. Translated nationally, a 73-percent response rate equates to approximately $2.3 billion spent on obtaining census information on foot. For Peoria County, that means over $1 million was spent to collect census information from non-responsive households—money that would be better spent on infrastructure projects, social services, education and economic development. Who knew that filling out a simple questionnaire could save so much money? It truly is "in our hands" to complete and return the form by mail, and Peoria County is counting on you to encourage others to do the same.
By law, all information collected by the Census Bureau, including names and telephone numbers, is confidential and can only be used in statistical form. The Census Bureau cannot give individual information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, CIA, or any other law enforcement agency. Citizens and non-citizens alike are required to participate in the census, without fear of repercussion.
Participating in the 2010 Census is safe, simple and so important to our quality of life and our community. Federal funding, equal representation, saving taxpayer dollars—It's all in our hands. Pass it on. iBi