HED:Census officials: Local efforts needed for accurate count

CATEGORY: USA Federal Government

AUTHOR: MARTY

HED:Census officials: Local efforts needed for accurate count

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

Census officials met Monday morning with representatives from Lee County municipalities urging them to establish local committees to ensure an accurate count in the year 2000.

“It may seem like a long way away but it’s right around the corner,” Robert Jamison, government partnership specialist for the Bureau of the Census, told the gathering of mayors, aldermen and administrators sponsored by the Tupelo/Lee County Emergency Management Agency.

It is estimated that between 54,000 and 98,000 Mississippians were unaccounted for in the 1990 census. Officials want to correct that in 2000 because those figures will be used to determine a wide variety of government spending based on population as well as legislative districting.

Local government officials were urged to establish what the census bureau is calling Complete Count Committees made up of a broad spectrum of local residents to ensure a grassroots effort. Jamison said that could be accomplished through constant reminders at work, school and in churches about the importance of completing and returning census forms in 2000.

“I’m a pastor and every fourth Sunday we’re placing in the bulletin something about the census,” said Jamison.

Currently, in the Northeast Mississippi area, census workers are going door to door in counties updating names and addresses for all living quarters and looking for new residences or those that may have been missed in 1990.

“We’re not out there to be nosy,” said Donna Bullock, field operations supervisor for 13 counties in the area. “All the information we’re getting now is names and exact mailing addresses. That’s how we’re going to get them a census form.”

All of the information is confidential and Sue Sautermeister, state director of the census, said any information obtained cannot be used against a person to lower or deny them benefits or prosecute them.

“We’ve got to get rid of the problem of, ‘Oh my God, you’re going to turn me in!,’” Sautermeister said, particularly among migrant workers. “We’re not here to turn you in. We can’t share the information with immigration or the courts.”

More workers are needed in Northeast Mississippi to update addresses in advance of the census. Applicants must be 18 or older or 16 with a high school diploma or GED with their own transportation and must complete a 30-minute written exam.

The exams are given each Friday at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Tupelo Job Service office but additional testing times and places may be arranged by calling 844-1544.

The address updating pays $7 per hour in the Tupelo area and travel is reimbursed at 31 cents per mile.