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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Bi-county Census assistance centers are open

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Julie Ruscha, coordinator for the Federal Census in Lawrence County, displays one of the purple shirts identifying census workers in the coming drive. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]

Preparation work for the 2010 Census has stepped up this week as a number of questionnaire assistance centers (QAC) have opened around Lawrence and Barry counties.

Trained staff will be available over several days for 15 hours a week for the next month to answer questions and aid in the completion of the population count, which kicks off in earnest on Census Day, slated for April 1.

According to Kristin Nama, media coordinator for QAC activity in Lawrence County, the centers provide citizens with a local contact person to talk to about the census. Each center is equipped with resources to read the census questions in many languages.

QACs are being established in several communities: * A census staff member is stationed at Monett City Hall from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

* In Pierce City, two QACs are in place. One is open at city hall from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The other is at the Pierce City Branch Library from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

* In Purdy, the QAC is at the library in the Purdy Community Center and assistance will be available from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and part of Thursday. A banner has been hung across Highway C announcing the service.

* In Verona, QAC staff are working out of three locations. Julie Ruscha, county census coordinator, said the main QAC is at city hall from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, except on April 2. A staff person is also at the Verona school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Other staff focusing on the Hispanic community are working out of Sacred Heart Catholic Church from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 20 and March 27.

Ruscha said information about QACs has been widely shared with city officials in Lawrence County. Questions about finding a local QAC can be directed to the local city hall.

Nama said census staff have been trained to recognize census information is absolutely confidential.

"The information can't be shared with any government agencies," Nama said. "It must be kept secret for 72 years. Privacy of the census is very important."

The census is mandated by the United States Constitution, Nama said. The count is necessary to determine the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives and potential votes available in the Electoral College for the selection of a national president. The first federal census was taken in 1790.

"A lot of people are expecting to get their census form in the mail," Nama said. "Much of southwest Missouri is being hand delivered. It's an area considered difficult to enumerate. If you get a door hangar marked 'U.S. Census,' don't throw it away. That's your form."

Staff at the assistance centers will provide help filling out the forms. There may be questions such as who should be listed if someone is about to move or a baby is close to arrival.

"Census Day is April 1," Nama said. "If you know someone will not be living in your house on April 1, don't count them."

Residents are encouraged to mail the forms in, using the self-addressed pre-paid envelope in the packet. Dropping off the form at the QAC is not encouraged. Mailing the form will maximize privacy.

If no response is received from a particular household, a second form may be sent or a staff person may come to the home.

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