Census gearing up for important task

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

It's an old joke, but in this case, it's the truth.

Vic Gentry, LCO manager of the North Platte office of the U.S. Census Bureau hopes Western Nebraska's independent streak doesn't keep residents from participating in an important project that has long-term benefits for the region.

Gentry, in town last week looking for 5,000 applicants for the 1,000 jobs needed in this end of the state, said that for every person counted in the 2010 census, $1,114 comes into the state in federal funding.

However, for every 1 percent of the population that doesn't respond, the government spends $90 million trying to follow up.

"That's money that comes right our of our pocket," he said.

Nebraskans are good about responding to the census, with 75 percent of us responding to the 2000 census, behind only Iowa nationally. True to Nebraska form, Gentry and other officials are shooting for No. 1 this census.

Some 74 percent of Red Willow County residents and 75 percent of Chase Country residents responded to the 2000 census, but other counties were lower -- Dundy 67 percent, Hitchcock 65 percent, Hayes 72 percent, Frontier 63 percent and Furnas 71 percent.

The North Platte census office is looking for about 100 census takers in Red Willow County, said Gentry, a former Sandhills rancher, and like all rural areas, it helps if they're "countryfied" people who know their way around on a dirt road.

We would hope well-paying temporary census jobs would be attractive enough to draw qualified applicants in the current economy. Considering the impact the census will have on our communities, it's important that we count every person possible during the upcoming tally.

McCook is at an advantage during the 2010 census, Gentry said, because we will be able to count McCook Community College students as residents this time.

If you're out of work or have time for an important part-time job, helping with the 2010 census might be just the thing for you.

Census takers, crew leaders, crew leader assistants, recruiting assistants and census clerks are needed.

You can find more information at http://2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs/

Or better yet, call the North Platte office at (308) 221-3040 and ask for recruiting.

As the census site notes, each question helps to determine how more than $400 billion will be allocated to communities across the country.

Plus, an accurate count is essential as the decline in population threatens Nebraska's 3rd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Even if you can't help take the census, you have an important role to play. Fill out the short, 10-question form as soon as you receive it next spring, accounting for every person living at your residence on April 1, 2010, and mail it back in the prepaid envelope.

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