In preparation for the 2010 Census, temporary workers have begun a massive field operation to verify addresses throughout Barry County, Missouri and the United States. Local residents could see Census Bureau workers in their neighborhood within the next few weeks.
"This is the first major census operation," said Dennis Johnson, who serves as the regional director for the Census Bureau's Kansas City office. "This is a vital operation to make sure everyone has a chance to be included in the 2010 Census."
During the address verification stage of the operation, workers will visit every house in the county to verify addresses in order to mail out census questionaires next year.
"These will be local folks who live in the community," said Johnson. "They will perform a courtesy knock, and if a resident is at home, they will explain the purpose of the operation and answer any questions that the resident might have.
"Census workers are not in uniforms," said Johnson. "They will have official identification and a bag with 'Census' on it. They'll use handheld computers equipped with GPS to increase geographic accuracy. Notices concerning this operation were sent to law enforcement agencies."
The address verification process will take between six and eight weeks to complete. During that time, workers will verify addresses and inquire about additional living quarters on some premises. Workers may also ask a few questions about housing units.
All information collected, including addresses, is kept confidential and protected by law. The Census Bureau cannot share respondents' answers with any other government agency, and all workers take an oath for life to keep census information confidential.
"The primary goal of the Census Bureau is to count everyone living in the country," said Johnson. "Count them once, and count them in the right place. Census data helps inform the process of reappointing seats to the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Plus, over $300 billion in federal dollars get distributed every year to state and local governments based on census data," said Johnson. "It's essential to get this first step right, and that's why we're out in neighborhoods all over the region and the country."
The next census will take place in March of 2010. At that time every household should receive a Census questionaire.
"If a resident does not receive a questionaire, they will be able to go on-line and get instructions or call a toll free number and provide information to request a questionaire," said Johnson. "We will also establish Be Counted Centers in each community to give people a place to go to if they don't receive a questionaire."