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Big Brother is Here: Be Glad

Big Brother is watching, but this time for a good reason

The U.S. 2010 Census will be in our mailboxes and on our doorsteps soon, and every household is required by law to fill out the form or face penalties.

Don’t make it hard on the poor Census workers knocking on doors in the dead of winter. Good comes out of it: government funding for the state, the number of electoral votes Alaska receives, congressional seat allocations and much more.

I was reading about the 2010 Census in Alaska Economic Trends December 2009 issue, put out by the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development, and I learned a few things.

A. Alaska is the first in the nation to be visited by the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, a little village of Noorvik, population 612, located just east of Kotzebue in a Bush community, was the first to see census workers: Jan. 25, 2010, just before residents headed off to fish camps.

B. While the official Census date is April 1, Alaskans will be doing theirs early. Questionnaires will be mailed or delivered February and March, and are expected to be completed and returned within two weeks.

C. If you get your mail delivered to your home address, your U.S. Census form will come via mail. If you have a P.O. box, you’ll get a knock on the door. If you have neither, they will find you. They know every address, every home, and plan to make contact with all.

D. Census information is private, at least in its original version with name attached. In fact, there is a stiff fine if information revealed to anyone. All census workers undergo background checks by the FBI, have their fingerprints taken, and take an oath of lifetime confidentiality. No worries: information will not be revealed to the IRS, FBI, courts, police, CIA or anyone else for that matter, that is until it goes into the National Archives 72 years after the record is collected for genealogical research.

E. Forms are available in English, Spanish and five other non-English languages. A toll-free number is available to request a special language form.

So why take the information, why gather it?

According to Alaska Economic Trends, “governments of all levels use the data for purposes ranging from determining revenue sharing for communities, to locating schools, roads and hospitals, and forecasting future transportation needs.”

In addition, “Many federal and other governmental programs require census date to support grant applications for community services, such as school lunch programs, day care programs and services for the community.”

The report also states businesses use the information for planning and expansion, and private folks use it for educational research, or to determine where they want to live.

So be a good citizen. Help the U.S. Census Bureau out. Return your form two weeks within receipt. Afterall, you are only required to do this once every 10 years, and it only takes about 10 minutes for the simple form, which most will receive, asking only 10 questions, which include: name, sex, age, race, telephone number, number of residents living there and a few other minor queries.

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