Jehlen: Census Participation is Residents’ Civic Duty

The following is from State Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville, Medford):

An Open Letter to the People of Medford:

In just a few months, you will be receiving a US census form in the mail. The census, which happens once every 10 years, is a constitutional responsibility of the federal government – and your civic duty. When you receive your form this spring, please complete it and return it as soon as possible; it should only take a few minutes.

This census form consists of just 10 generic, non-invasive questions. Although short, the census nevertheless has far-reaching consequences for the state of Massachusetts. A low return rate could lose the commonwealth a congressional seat – and approximately $2,231.00 per uncounted person since many federal funding formulas for education, transportation, healthcare, and local project grants are based on census data.

Neglecting your census form will not only lose money for Massachusetts but will also cost the federal government a considerable amount. The census has budgeted for a 62% mail-back rate; if an additional 1% of the population returns their completed form, it will save $300 million; however, if 1% less mail back their forms, the Census Bureau will be required to follow up by phone and in person, wasting an additional $300 million.

If you send in your completed form in a timely manner, no census worker will come knocking at your door, but if a census worker does come to your house, your privacy will still be respected. Census workers are legally bound by a strict confidentiality law that – if broken – results in up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. There are also statistical safeguards that ensure that no one at any level of government can access your individual information.

Unfortunately, there are individuals who will use the census as a scam opportunity, so if a census worker comes to your door, ask to see their ID badge. A census worker will also never, ever ask for your social security number or any bank or credit card information. They will not solicit donations. The Census Bureau will not contact you by email; any attachments to emails claiming to be for the census may be malicious. And, as common sense would dictate, never invite anyone that you do not know into your home.

So, keep an eye on your mailbox in early spring! Doing your duty and returning your form quickly will benefit your community, save the government money, and get you the services and representation that you deserve. Thank you for your participation in the upcoming 2010 Census!

Best Wishes,

Patricia D. Jehlen
State Senator

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