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Census forms lead to more grant money for Island County

Ten years ago, only 59 percent of residents of Island County filled out their census forms, which means agencies and governmental entities missed out on many thousands of dollars passed down from the state and federal government.

This time around, officials in the county are making a push to urge all residents to fill out and send in the short form for Census 2010, which everyone should receive in the mail next week. A complete count would mean more tax money headed to the county, and for the state, it would mean more representation in Washington D.C.

“If everyone gets counted, we will get our fair share,” Island County Planning Director Bob Pederson said. He’s a member of the county’s Complete Count Census Committee.

Pederson explained that much of the funding and grants from the state and federal government are based on population numbers from the census. It amounts to about $1,400 a person each year.

“If we are undercounted, that ripples through the county for 10 years,” he said.

The county’s 59 percent compliance rate for the 2000 census was “pretty low,” Pederson said. The overall state average was 66 percent.

Island County Economic Development Director Sharon Hart, who also is a member of the census committee, agrees about the importance of a complete count. She said cities, for example, need accurate statistics to build a case in a grant application for utilities, a senior center or transit.

“It’s horrible to be undercounted,” she said. “It’s very expensive.”

A complete count could also lead to greater representation in Washington D.C. for state residents. Pederson explained that the state’s population growth, if confirmed in the census, would lead to an additional U.S. congressional seat. The state, which is the 13th most populated, currently has nine representatives. A good count would boost that to 10 seats in the House. And that would mean another vote in the electoral college.

Hart said accurate census data is also important for businesses. The EDC constantly provides statistical data to business people who may be interested in the county. Banks may rely on data from the census in deciding whether to loan money to an entrepreneur.

“As an example, a person may need to know for a business plan how many people in a given income level live here,” she said. “We need accurate numbers to tell the story.”

The 2010 census form is advertised as one of the shortest forms in history. It consists of “10 questions in 10 minutes,” according to the 2010 census Web site, 2010.census.gov.

April 1 is National Census Day, which is when the federal government wants forms to be completed and mailed back.

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