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Veterans campaign for Census 2000

Staff Writer

Some area veterans are doing more to protect the nation.

This time, they are working to ensure things like Medicare and Social Security benefits are safe.

Members of the American Legion Post No. 70 have been working on a grassroots campaign to get Pike Countians to return their Census 2000 forms.

Troy City Clerk Alton Starling said about 14,000 forms were mailed out and only about half have been returned.

Starling said many people don’t realize how many programs are affected by not returning the census form.

Many different agencies use the data collected from the census. Some of the programs impacted by census results include: the Food Stamp Act, legislative redistricting, Military Variable Housing Allowance Program, Adult Education Act, Title I, Women’s Educational Equity Act, Age Discrimination and Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Civil Rights Act, Equal Pay Act, Federal Energy Administration Act of 1974, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, Head Start Act. Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Community Development Block Grant Program, Emergency Shelter Grant Program, National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, Section 8 Income Limits, Tax Reform Act, Wildlife Restoration Programs, Immigration Act of 1990, Veterans Employment and Training Program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program, federal aid for highways, Veterans Benefits Program and Disabled Veterans Outreach Program, to name a few.

Every individual helping the census is helping the community, Starling said, adding getting churches involved "would be good" for the entire community and would back up the American Legion’s efforts.

"Some of our members have gone around and urged people to send them in," said Billy Gibson, who is a member of the American Legion and knows the importance of those forms.

In addition to opening their facility to census workers, the Legionnaires are talking to friends and neighbors about the importance of returning the census forms.

Gibson said he’s heard that the state could lose $400 million because of the failure to send in those forms.

"We need that money," Gibson said. "So many of the people it will directly affect put it aside."

And, it’s knowing that money is needed that has the Legionnaires doing things like helping neighbors fill out the forms.

Gibson said he knows of one man who filled out the forms for his neighbors, had them sign them and dropped them in the mail because those forms would likely not have been returned to the Census Bureau if he hadn’t taken the initiative.

The biggest complaint about the census is that it delves too deeply into people’s lives.

"It does concern them that people are invading their privacy," Gibson said.

But, there is a reason those questions are being asked.

According to information released by the federal government, the long form is the shortest that has been produced since 1820. Only seven questions are asked on the short form and should take fewer than 10 minutes to complete.

The long form is also the shortest it’s ever been since it was developed in 1940 with 81 questions. The 52-question form has been sent to about one in six households.

Since many people have asked why certain questions are included in the form, the Census Bureau has worked to answer those questions and even has a section of the web site dedicated to frequently asked questions.

Regarding age, sex and race ­ those questions have been asked since the first census in 1790.

Information collected on the number of telephones in a home is used to help plan E-911 emergency services and implement the Older Americans Act that provides emergency and health care services to homebound senior citizens without phone service.

Questions regarding how long it takes to commute to work are used by federal, state, local and private transportation planners to design roads, bus routes and mass transit systems, plus manage traffic congestion and distribute federal transportation money.

Asking information on the number of bathrooms has raised some eyebrows. That data is used to determine the quality of housing stock and to identify areas eligible for public assistance and rehabilitation loans.

Plans for veterans hospitals are made using data about veterans asked on the census.

He said the action taken by the American Legion post in Troy has brought forth other volunteers.

Most importantly, he said, the effort is helping.

Information about the census can be found at www.census.gov or www.UScode.house.gov/title_13.htm.