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2010 Census draws near

Come March 2010, census questionnaires will be mailed to households across the country. What can Sunnyside expect?

According to Jim Holly of the Kennewick census office, local residents are encouraged to promptly fill out the form and send it back in, as responses to the questionnaires are due by Census Day, April 1, 2010. Those who haven't responded to the census can expect a visit from census workers anytime from April to July.

"If you get a questionnaire and mail it back in, you won't see anybody from the census bureau," said Holly.

When asked how this census differs from the millennium census, he responded: "In a wonderful way. All forms are short forms. It's 10 questions, fill it out in 10 minutes and drop it in the mail."

In some areas, census workers will canvass cities in an effort to update maps. Holly said it's not likely much of that will take place in this region.

In this area, it's possible that some residents are concerned about immigration status. They need not be, said Holly. "Our mandate is to count everyone who is residing there at the time of the count. We don't ask about (immigration) status, that's not the census bureau's job."

Holly expounded, adding that census workers are sworn to remain silent for 72 years about information they collected during the process. Not upholding that oath can result in five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Holly noted that one of the most undercounted populations is children, which he said can negatively impact a community because local school districts are allotted federal dollars based on population.

Holly said that for each person that was counted during the 2000 census, the individual's community received roughly $1,400 in funding.

"An undercount of even 10 people is many dollars you don't want to miss," Holly said.

According to information provided by the census bureau, the federal government can allocate more than $300 billion to states and communities based in part on census data, which also determines legislative representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Holly said participating in the count is a requirement by law and there is a $500 penalty for not participating in the census, but added, "To the best of my knowledge, it's never been prosecuted."

Census forms cannot be found online. They will either be mailed or found at "Questionnaire Assistance Centers," which Holly said would be set up in places like community centers.

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