March 17, 2010 | The San Fernando Valley Sun | Original Article

Time to Get Counted

By the time you read this, chances are you've already received your 2010 U.S. Census


This year's Census forms are the shortest in history. On average, it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes to answer the 10 questions dealing with those who live in your homes.

questionnaires, a population count taken every decade which decides each state's representation in Congress, votes in the Electoral College, and how much cities and counties around the country receive from $400 billion in federal funds for education, housing and health services.

Census forms were scheduled to arrive in households March 15- 17 and given the current budget deficits in the state [$20 billion] and the city [$200 million], it's no surprise local authorities are urging people to fill it out and send it back.

"Only once a decade, Angelenos have the opportunity to help shape their communities," said Los Angeles City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa just before hundreds of volunteers representing his office walked some of Los Angeles' hard-tocount communities to motivate residents to fill out their census forms. "That's why today people throughout Los Angeles are going door to door and talking to their neighbors about the importance of standing up and being counted in this year's census so that we get our fair share of federal funding."

According to the Mayor's office, the City of Los Angeles lost more than $200 million in grants and other federal funding as a result of the Census 2000 undercount of approximately 80,000 Angelenos. That's why Villaraigosa's office has kicked the Census 2010 "Get Out the County" campaign which seeks to target the most traditionally undercounted groups such as young children in low-income homes, minorities, recent immigrants, the homeless, renters and persons living in large households. On March 30, the city will also organize a number of events promoting the Census.


People enter the "Portraits of America" mobile exhibit, which allows people to record their own life experiences and gives visitors an overview of the meaning and importance of the Census.

The Co unty of Los Angeles has also established dozens of centers where people can receive help filling out those forms, replace lost forms or get one if they never received it. It is estimated the County lost $636 million because more than 170,000 residents went uncounted in the 2000 Census.

There are 67 centers located at County libraries, parks, health centers, senior centers and fire stations. In addition, the County Public Social Services Department will provide assistance at 21 of its offices to clients already visiting those facilities.

Valley Census Centers


In the San Fernando Valley, County assistance centers are located at El Cariso Community Regional County Park, 13100 Hubbard St. in Sylmar; San Fernando Valley Service Center, 7555 Van Nuys Blvd. in Van Nuys; and Veterans Memorial Community Regional County Park, 13000 Sayre St. in Sylmar.

Filling out the forms shouldn't take too long and shouldn't be that complicated.

"All we need is basic information about who lives in the homes, ages, race and home stats, whether you own or rent," said Rebecca Blank, Department of Commerce Undersecretary who visited Los Angeles this week as part of "Portraits of America," a traveling exhibit creating awareness about the Census. Once filled, all you have to do is return the Census form, which is free, since it comes with a self-addressed, self-stamped envelope.

And this year's Census form is one of the shortest in history.

"There are only 10 questions, which should take you 10 minutes to answer," said Blank. "And with the way California is right now, you want all the federal funding you can get."

"When people don't get counted, the repercussions are huge. What we're telling people is that filling out the forms is easy, it's safe and it's important," noted Blank.

For the first time this year, Census forms will be in English and Spanish, making it easier for Spanish-speaking residents to fill out the form, said Blank.

In fact, Arturo Vargas of NALEO [National Association of Latino Elected Officials], which is spearheading its own campaign to get people counted in Latino communities, called "The Latino Census," where "Latinos will show they are the second largest group in the country."

Vargas said Latinos stand to gain much from this census, but, he warned, the "risk of missing our community is greater than ever before. We have to make sure everybody gets counted."

The Constitution mandates the U.S. Census, which dates back to 1790. Since then, there have been 21 census counts conducted. The Census is meant to count everyone, citizens and non-citizens.

Information given to the census is strictly confidential and there are laws that prohibit sharing this data with other government agencies.

Getting an accurate or inaccurate population count can have wide ramifications, and asking people for a few minutes to provide information that may provide funding and services, as Blank put it, "is easy, safe and is important."