U.S. Cenus 2000: Census Bureau gearing up to provide help, motivation

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JULIE ANDERSON
U.S. Census 2000 will bring some changes in the information required and the process by which it can be provided.

To raise awareness of the census and educate people about its importance, the census bureau will run national television ads in March.

Sherman A. Parks Jr., district manager for the U.S. census, said in the past the bureau had only run public service announcements.

?Unfortunately, those are placed where there is a void and that usually is two in the morning,? Parks said.

The advertisements, created to educate people about the need to fill out the form, will be run at different times during the day.

Overall, Parks said, the forms don?t have many changes. He said the questions are similar to previous census efforts.

But a few questions have been added and others taken off.

?Again, those are basically some issues that are really kind of determined more by the Congress because everything on there has a reason,? Parks said.

The length of the forms also have changed. The short form will be the shortest in 180 years. Five subjects were moved to the long form, including marital status, units in the structure, number of rooms, value of the home and monthly rent.

?The form is easier to read, easier to understand and easier to complete,? Parks said. ?For young people, maybe being their first census, it is going to be a lot easier than what other generations have had.?

Five questions also have been dropped from the long form and one new subject was added. The form now includes a question about grandparents as caregivers. The question is in response to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996.

To encourage people to fill out and return the forms a ?Be Counted Center? will be opened. The center will provide a place for people to pick up forms if they forgot to mail it in or misplaced their form.

?Question Assistance Centers? also will be available to provide help answering the questions.

Bilingual individuals will be available at the centers to help people interpret and understand the forms.

?The ideal situation would be to have one in every community, but we don?t have that type of money,? Parks said.

Because of funding limitations, the centers will only be available in larger cities, such as Topeka and Lawrence.

Parks said the only other change being talked about is use of the Internet. He said the form may be available for people to fill out online, but bureau employees have not received training on it yet.

The City of Hillsboro also is getting involved in encouraging people to bring in their forms.

Because of a grant received from the Census Bureau, the city will be promoting the census with flyers in the local papers, as well as sending out a direct mailing.

Then, on March 25, 27 and April 1, the city will be hand out a book of coupons in various stores and restaurants in Hillsboro for anyone bringing in a census form.

?Hopefully, that will get people?s interest in bringing their forms in as quickly as possible so that we can get them counted,? Mayor Delores Dalke said. ?The more people that bring them in the less chance there is of somebody being missed.?

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