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Federal Eye: Locke Joins Census Bureau Outreach Efforts

In his first official act as commerce secretary, Gary Locke urged the leaders of groups volunteering with the U.S. Census Bureau to increase their outreach efforts among the nation’s minority groups, noting the government has simplified the process in an effort to boost overall participation.

“It’s our job to let Americans know that taking part in the Census is important, easy and safe. Residents must know that their information is secure. That it’s illegal to share any information with anyone,” Locke said at an event sponsored by the Census Bureau to mark the one year countdown to next year’s census.

“Please let people know that the 2010 Census is very simple: 2010: ten questions, ten minutes. Completing the census form will be very very easy. For every Census form returned in the mail, it will save the federal government more money down the road.”

The secretary’s appearance kicked off a meeting with leaders of companies including Coca-Cola, General Mills and Target and local community groups and civil rights organizations that will work with the bureau needs to boost participation levels for next year’s headcount. The decennial Census helps determine the distribution of at least $300 billion in federal funding and the number of Congressional seats allotted to each state.

Addressing concerns about potential political interference in next year’s census by the Obama administration, Locke said “We’re going to make sure that the Census Bureau has the independent leadership it deserves and the professional oversight that Americans demand.”

Part pep rally, part training session, Census officials repeatedly stressed that next year’s census will succeed only if it’s backed by the reputations and good will afforded to local community groups that independently vouch for the importance of the headcount.

“A superb census will come about only if we get to those who today don’t plan to participate,” said Census Associate Director Arnold Jackson. He implored participating groups to help dispel rumors about the census, especially amongst Blacks or Hispanics concerned that Census employees may be working in concert with employees of the IRS or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Participating companies and organizations said they have a vested interest in assuring their customers and members are counted.

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