1100 Black Belt residents to receive new Census survey

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2005

REGION–Given the number of scams, hoaxes, rip-offs, and frauds floating around out there, it’s understandable if residents would be suspicious of an envelope labeled “U.S. Census Bureau” and the lengthy survey inside asking for potentially exploitable information.

But in this case, if you receive or have received an envelope marked “U.S. Census Bureau” you should know the people who sent you the envelope are probably…the U.S. Census Bureau.

300 Marengo county residents, along with 200 each in Greene, Sumter, Perry, and Hale, will receive the Bureau’s American Community Survey in the mail sometime this year. Shelley Lowe with the Bureau says the “ACS” is part of the government’s efforts to provide information more up-to-date than the once-a-decade full census statistics gathered back in 2000 and not due to be gathered again until 2010.

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“Local and state governments need fresh data more than once every ten years,” she says. “The ACS will give us accurate, in-depth socioeconomic data that was previously available only through the census… [It’s] part of a new methodology that allows us to collect and publish data monthly that before has only been published every ten years. Now we will receive data from every county in every state every month.”

The ACS, Lowe says, has been closely adapted from the more in-depth, extended version of the normal census form sent to approximately 1 in 6 residents during the 2000 census. Lowe acknowledges that the survey does ask a number of questions and will take some (though negligible) time to complete.

But for those wondering if they could just ignore the survey, a press release from the Bureau points out that “as with the traditional ten-year census, survey response is mandatory under Title 13 of the United States Code.” Lowe says, though, more importantly, residents who complete and return the ACS are acting in the interest of making their government more efficient and their community a better place.

“One thing is that census data is the basis of more than $200 billion in allocations yearly,” she says. “This will allow governments and local communities to have much more targeted, accurate data on the community’s needs in education, housing, senior citizens…they’ll be much better equipped to use local resources to target local needs.”

So, if they’re willing to help, how will recipients know they’ve got the real deal?

“It has the official Department of Commerce logo and is marked as official business of the U.S. Government,” Lowe says. “Each survey will have an official survey code with an expiration date.”

Respondents especially concerned with security can even call the Census Bureau’s regional office at 800-424-6974 and verify that their address had been chosen to receive the survey. Lowe added that although some survey recipients have been confused by the anonymous-sounding destination, the form will include an envelope in which respondents will mail the survey, free of charge, to Bureau offices in Jeffersonville, IN.

The release says that confidentiality of the response is of the utmost concern to the Bureau.

“We take extreme measures to protect confidentiality, starting from the

point at which the data is collected and continuing decades after the data

is published as aggregate statistics,” it reads. “Every census worker with access to

the data is sworn for life to protect confidentiality, with severe

penalties for violating the law.”

For more information, residents can visit www.census.gov and click on the “American

Community Survey” box on the bottom of the page.