Tuesday, October 21, 2014
   
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Being counted counts

Census begins in Dawson County March 1.

When a U.S. Census Bureau employee taps on your door and hands you a short questionnaire, take the five or so minutes necessary to fill it out and then stick it in the mail.

For every person who does not allow themselves to be counted, the state stands to lose $1,114 in federal money.

“It’s our power and our money,” said Vic Gentry, manager for the Census office in North Platte. “There’s a lot at stake if people don’t respond.”

The North Platte Census office is one of three in the state responsible for delivering the questionnaires and collecting the data. The other two offices are in Lincoln and Omaha.

Gentry said his office covers the 52 most western counties of the state, from Grand Island to the Wyoming border.

“It’s between 55,00 and 60,000 square miles,” he said. “That’s a lot of ground to cover.”

And in the majority of those counties, Census questionnaires will be hand delivered to each household by the 1,000 or so employees beginning March 1.

“We have somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 households to visit,” Gentry said.

The Census Bureau is hiring employees from Dawson County to work in Dawson County. Gentry said the intent is to keep the salary money spent within each county.

“It also puts a local, friendly face in many towns,” he said.

The North Platte office is in the process of hiring workers. Anyone over age 18 with valid identification and no criminal record will be considered.

“We need good people who will do a good job,” he said.

Dawson County workers will visit each household with a 10-question survey.

Gentry said each employee will be wearing an official Census Bureau badge and remain outside homes at all times.

“They will leave the questionnaire and depart,” he said. “It is each person’s responsibility to fill it out and send it back. “

Questions are simple such as address, name of each person living in a household, ages, race and gender, just to name a few.

“It’s not like we’re asking for annual income or how many bathrooms you have in your home,” Gentry said.

Between May 1-15, the office will receive a list of addresses where no one has responded. Workers then return to those addresses, two or three times if necessary.

“There are legitimate reasons for not mailing the questionnaire back like it gets lost or a person forgets it,” Gentry said. “But apathy is not an excuse.”

During the 2000 Census, Nebraska had the second highest initial return at 75%. Iowa was first with 76%. The national average was 65%.

“We’re going to work to make Nebraska No. 1,” Gentry said.

Results from the 52-county area will be compiled in North Platte every day during the process and tabulated by the federal office. Gentry said the process should be wrapped up by October.