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Missouri prepares for 2010 Census

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – State and federal officials are preparing for the 2010 U.S. Census, which begins in March.

One of their main concerns is that some residents are afraid or apathetic when it comes to filling out census forms. Officials are taking steps to reassure the public that there's no agenda apart from accurately counting the population of Missouri and the rest of the nation.

Dennis Johnson is Regional Director for the U.S. Census office in Kansas City, Kansas.

"It doesn't matter what agency comes to us, what individual comes to us, we will not release that information...it's strictly for purposes of representation and distribution of money...no one needs to worry about responding to the census and finding out that it may come back to harm them in some way," Johnson said.

Among their concerns is that some immigrant families may not cooperate, fearing that the census will be used to search out illegal immigrants.

"The census counts residents...the 2010 Census will not ask you whether you're a citizen; we will not ask you about your status...legislation would need to (be changed) for us to change those type of questions or to add those type of questions," Johnson said.

Johnson also says the U.S. Census Bureau is not affiliated in any way with ACORN, despite being partnered with the controversial group in the past on public information campaigns.

The census data will be used to determine how many congressional districts each state will have.

Officials in Missouri are concerned that the state may lose a seat in Congress, thus losing millions of dollars in federal aid and weakening Missouri's voice in Washington.

The state Office of Administration will chair the public awareness campaign aimed at encouraging Missourians to take part in the census. O.A. Commissioner Kelvin Simmons says no one should be afraid to fill out a census form.

"There are some people that don't exactly know what kind of information is being gathered, who they're gathering it on, and why it's important, and so it's our job to tell people that they should not be fearful," Simmons said.


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