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2010 Census has arrived

Whether by hand delivery or by mail, nearly every resident in Covington County should have received a 2010 Census form.

Now, there’s only one thing left to do – fill it out, said Dr. Darryl Lee, U.S. Census partnership coordinator for Alabama and northern Florida.

“People have seen it on the news, heard about it on the radio and read about it in the papers,” Lee said. “The Census is a basic questionnaire of 10 questions that could mean an untold amount in funding for your area.

“We need those questions answered for the maximum benefit to your county,” he said.

Herald as residents’ opportunity to “stand up and be counted,” the Census aims to paint an accurate portrait of who makes up America. Participating in the census is required by law for everyone living in the U.S., and the public is encouraged to promptly mail back forms once they are delivered this week between March 15-17. About 12 million addresses, mostly in rural areas as well as Gulf Coast areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, began receiving hand-delivered forms March 1.

Areas of rural Covington County were included in that 12 million, Lee said.

Census data, which is compiled every 10 years, helps determine how more than $400 billion in federal funds are distributed to tribal, state and local governments every year – including funding for schools, roads, health care and other critical programs.

“So what that means to you, locally, is that we have to have those (Census) numbers for you to get your fair share of funding,” Lee said. “For things like education, because funding for lunch programs are tied to Census numbers; for senior services, for Medicaid and Medicare. In addition, we’re talking about transportation and the funds to repair roads.

“For economic planning, too, because when a business considers moving into an area, they look at the answers to these Census questions,” he said.

The 10 questions include name, race, date-of-birth, ethnicity, the number of people in the household and living arrangement, address and telephone number.

“And people should rest assured that their information is completely confidential for 72 years,” Lee said. “We can’t give your name to the president of the United States, if he asked for it. Remember, though, we don’t ask for your driver’s license or Social Security numbers, and never for your credit card information.”

Lee said postage for the form is free, and responses should be postmarked on or before April 1, 2010.

“We call that Census Day,” he said. “Those numbers will provide a snapshot of America, and we want everyone to be in the picture.”

Those needing help with filling out the forms are encouraged to contact the public libraries in Andalusia, Florala and Opp.