by Sarah Squires
Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy announced Wednesday that projections show Minnesota is expected to lose a congressional seat based on new state population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
But those projections show Minnesota missing the threshold for holding the seat by just 1,100 people, meaning that the actual census count in 2010 could be anyone's game. "Basically, this is a dead heat," said Gillaspy. "Remember, these are just estimates by the Census Bureau, and our chances of retaining eight seats are improving every day. What will decide the issue is getting everyone in Minnesota counted in the 2010 Census."
The bureau estimates that the Census will show Minnesota's population has grown about 35,647 people since 2008 estimates, but not enough to keep the state from being dangerously close to losing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Because the upcoming Census will determine whether Minnesota does keep its eighth seat, state officials are asking that people make sure to return the 10-question survey by April 1, 2010, the deadline. For Minnesota and its tight count, officials are especially interested in making sure that snowbirds fill out their Census forms for their permanent residences, and that college students and new immigrants get their numbers counted, as well.
Complete count: more important than ever
Alongside the struggle to maintain its congressional seat, Minnesota will lose big in other ways if many of its citizens aren't counted with the new Census. County Recorder Bob Bambenek, who is heading up a Complete Count Committee aimed at getting the word out on the Census, said that Census numbers help determine funding levels, as well. It's generally estimated that each citizen counted brings in about $1,400 in federal dollars. "That comes from lots of programs, from early childhood development to transportation," he said. "In the challenging times we're facing, this is additional funding that we don't want to lose. Ten years ago there was still Census work to do when the deadline came, and we may have been short changed. We're working hard this year. It comes down to needing all the people in Winona County to be counted on April 1."
what to do
For those who leave snowy Minnesota for winter and spring months, it's important to know what to expect, and what to do, when the Census questionnaire arrives. First, the surveys will be mailed to all regular mailing addresses, so snowbirds should find them at both residences. Census surveys will not be forwarded, even if you've got a forward on all your mail from home.
Snowbirds who consider Minnesota the state of their permanent homes should fill out the Census for Minnesota, which will benefit Minnesota. Do not fill out the questionnaire delivered to your temporary home. Instead, wait to fill out the one waiting in Minnesota. If you don't plan to return by the deadline on April 1, 2010, call 1-866-872-6868 to request a Minnesota form or get other assistance.
The Census Bureau is restricted from sharing personal information provided in the Census with other agencies, meaning that it can't be used against you. Still, historically, not everyone has been too keen on filling out the paperwork, for whatever the reason. But this count's form may help at least ease the hassle, down from the long form Census taken ten years ago, this Census is only ten questions long.
Here are the questions:
1. How many people are living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?
2. Were there any additional people staying here April 1, 2010 that you did not include in Question 1? (mark all that apply) Children, such as newborn babies or foster children; Relatives, such as adult children, cousins, or in-laws; Nonrelatives, such as roommates or live-in baby sitters; People staying here temporarily; No additional people.
3. Is this house, apartment or mobile home (mark one) Owned by you or someone in this household with a mortgage or loan? Owned by you or someone in this household free and clear? Rented? Occupied without payment of rent?
4. What is your telephone number? (We may call if we don't understand an answer)
5. Print first and last name (person 1).
6. Check box for sex, male or female.
7. Person #1's age and date of birth.
8. Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin? (check one) No, not of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin; Yes, Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano; Yes, Puerto Rican; Yes, Cuban; Yes, another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin (with room to print the origin).
9. What is Person 1's race? White; Black, African Am., or Negro; American Indian or Alaska Native (with room to print name of enrolled or principal tribe).
10. Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else? (Mark all that apply) In college housing; In the military; At a seasonal or second residence; For child custody; In jail or prison; In a nursing home; For another reason.
All ten questions are repeated for each person living in the home.
Spread the word
The Winona County Complete Count Committee is working to ensure that all county residents are counted during this year's Census. The group is currently planning to hold a meeting in January to discuss the promotion of the Census count, and is inviting any service group, nonprofit, community organization, faith community and any business or agency interested in learning more to attend. Call the County Recorder's Office at 457-6340 for more information. Additionally, the group can provide a speaker for longer or shorter discussions for any upcoming events.