Across U.S., it's census time

Residents urged to return 10-question form promptly

If the year ends in a zero, there is one thing that can be counted on within the borders of the U.S.: it's census time.

Across the nation, census questionnaires have started arriving in mailboxes, and officials both locally and nationally are urging Americans to return their forms quickly.

The 2010 census form has been pared down to one of the shortest surveys in the history of the institution. 10 questions long, it forgoes questions about income, occupation or level of education, questions that used to be on the now-eliminated long form. That information is still collected through the American Community Survey, said Mary Ruth Sweet, an area manager for upstate New York for the Census Bureau.

"We collect that information in another way now, so no one has to be troubled by spending 40 minutes filling out their census," she said. "It's back to being abut as short as it was in 1790."

Population data is of great importance to government operations, however. Information from the census will be used to figure districts for state and federal representation and in the distribution of about $400 billion in annual federal funding. These funds go to programs ranging from education to healthcare to road repair.

Supervisor Sam Messina said he'd like to offer a challenge to Bethlehem to have as high a response rate as possible, which will hopefully translate into the federal support for area needs.

"It's a challenge to ourselves in terms of how well we can do," Messina said. "We want to maximize benefits for Bethlehem in those considerations. Being accurate does that."

In 2000 Bethlehem's final response rate was 84 percent, well above the national rate of 67 percent and also an improvement over 1990's return rate of 78 percent.

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