Please spread the word about the importance of the Census!

From time to time we have a guest dog visiting in the Workers’ Center space. Today it is Milkshake, a friendly and stylish (neckerchief worn at a saucy angle) Corgi. Although I’m not crazy about just any old dog, I must confess to a soft spot for corgis since I was once the companion of one. RIP, Ivy. Thanks for stopping by, Milkshake.

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On to today’s real topic: the 2010 US census. Pam Mackesy, county Legislator for District 1, a district which represents parts of the city and  Town of Ithaca, is also the chair of the county census committee. She stopped by today to talk about how critical an accurate census count is to both the city of Ithaca and Tompkins County.

Since the census results are so important in so many ways, the County is very concerned that everyone be counted on April 1, the official census counting day. Federal aid — over $100 billion dollars of it —  to counties and municipalities is allocated based on the April 1st population figures. This money is used for community programs and services, such as education programs, housing and community development, health-care services for the elderly, job training, roads, bus services, food programs and all Department of Social Services programs. If the city of Ithaca’s population has climbed above 30,000 residents, it will be eligible for many more programs than it has benefited from in the past.

Some undocumented workers or people who are wary of governmental intrusion into their lives are reluctant to provide information to what looks like all governmental agencies.  We’ve been assured that there will be no retribution against the undocumented nor is all the information shared between government agencies.

Another problem with collecting real numbers is that the census forms arrive at a home with only an address, not a specific name, so miscounts in homes shared by groups of unrelated people is common. An apartment or group home is one household; all the residents must be counted. College students should be counted in the location where they reside on April 1st, not in their home state.

The census agency is planning staffed QACs (Questionaire Assistance Center) around the county: at the Tompkins County Public Library, the TC Department of Social Services on West State Street, the Pyramid Mall, the Dryden Village Hall and on College Avenue in Collegetown. Materials have been printed in 57 languages. The staff is being trained to assist people with filling out the forms and answering other questions. Besides the staffed QACs, the census will have multiple BC (Be Counted!) sites around the county. Although the BC sites will not be staffed, they will be fully stocked with literature on the census.

Please remember to discuss the census and its importance with your families, friends and neighbors. This is an essential issue for the poor and middle income earners in Tompkins County.