More than 120 million U.S. Census forms began arriving Monday in mailboxes around the country, just the 23rd time the country has undertaken the constitutionally mandated population counts that dates back to 1790.
"People need to fill these out and return them. It is really important," said Bainbridge Town Board President Richard Cope.
The Census counts every resident in the United States, and is required by the Constitution to take place every 10 years.
The count is used to divvy up congressional seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid for things like hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels, public works projects and emergency services.
The data collected by the Census also help determine the number of seats states have in the U.S. House of Representatives. Census counts are used to redraw state and local legislative boundaries so that political representation is fairly distributed across their changing populations.
"When you receive your 2010 Census, please fill it out and mail it back," Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said
There are 10 short questions to fill out and mail back in the postage-paid envelope provided. It requires that you fill in the form to account for everyone living at your address as of April 1. Those who don't mail the form back may receive a visit from a Census taker who will ask you the questions from the form. Any personal data you provide is protected under federal law.
The Census Bureau today estimated that if every household completed and mailed back their census form, taxpayers could reduce the cost of taking the census by $1.5 billion. The Census Bureau saves about $85 million in operational costs for every percentage point increase in the nation's participation rate by mail.
Advance letters alerting households to the arrival of the 2010 Census form last week, as well as reminder postcards sent later this month, are all part of a mailing strategy that has been proven to increase participation in the census by mail -- a cost savings that could exceed more than $500 million.
Even with these changes to make the census the shortest and easiest in a lifetime, the Census Bureau still projects that it will have to send Census takers to an estimated 48 million households that do not respond by mail. Following up door-to-door to count households from May to July will require hiring about 650,000 Census workers.
Census forms are available upon request in six languages: English, Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Korean, Vietnamese and Russian. Braille and large print forms are also available on request. For the hearing impaired, a TDD program is available at (866) 738-2010.
If you did not receive a form, call the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance center at (866) 872-6868 (if you prefer a Spanish-speaking operator, dial (866) 928-2010). The lines will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week through July 30.