Federal Eye: Census Taps Stimulus Funds to Boost Participation

By Ed O’Keefe and Steve Vogel

Amid fears that millions of people may not be counted during next year’s census, the Census Bureau will devote $250 million of its $1 billion in stimulus funding to encourage greater participation in the decennial count among hard-to-count populations, which is likely to include families displaced by the home foreclosure crisis.

Americans will be hard-pressed to miss the Census’ advertising efforts next year, as the bureau plans to spend at least $145 million on advertising across traditional and social media, with approximately $70 million devoted exclusively to Asian, Black or Hispanic outlets.

“A year from now, the populace will have seen and heard more ads in national and local media than in any prior census,” Census Bureau acting director Thomas L. Mesenbourg told a House panel today.

The agency will also hire 2,000 additional temporary employees by the end of June to coordinate efforts with more than 10,000 local organizations and corporations to help encourage greater participation. Companies including General Mills and Target and groups like the NAACP will encourage their customers and members to fill out census forms next year.

All of this is necessary to help boost participation levels among the nation’s under-counted groups, mostly ethnic minorities in economically-depressed areas. How the bureau decides to advertise could prove crucial to next year’s count, said Stacey Cumberbach, New York City’s census coordinator.

“While the Census is a federal responsibility, there must be earlier and ongoing communication and accountability to local governments and communities,” she said at today’s hearing, noting that 55 percent of New York residents responded to the 2000 Census questionnaires, compared to 66 percent nationally.

But any attempt to at coordination with local governments may be impacted by their tight budgets, said Robert Goldenkoff with the Government Accountability Office, who also noted that the bureau could face resistance because of anti-illegal immigration sentiments and general fear or distrust of government agencies since 9/11.

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Allen Sheaprd


What happened to the hand helpd PDA the census was going to use to automate data collection?

The census should be interesting. While technology changes – so much else does not.

Advertising does help with participation. Any reason why people would not want to be counted? Any idea what percentage might be missed?

Terrence McAtamney

There is also talk that the help of ACORN may be enlisted, in spite of several documented cases of voter fraud. If the Government is sincere about getting accurate numbers there cannot be even the hint of impropriety. All for getting good numbers and using every appropriately vetted avenue though.