It was no joke - Census Day was April 1; the deadline the U.S. Census Bureau requested for citizens to mail their questionnaires back. Elected officials and community leaders throughout the nation celebrated Census Day as an effort to increase participation. Governor Tim Pawlenty declared April 1, as 2010 Census Day in the State of Minnesota.

As of this week, 50 percent of Itasca County residents have responded so far; 65 percent of Grand Rapids residents; and 62 percent statewide, according to the U.S. Census Website. But, don't fret, there is still time to take part in this very important event. Now through April 10, the Census Bureau will mail another round of 2010 Census questionnaires to about 40 million households. These replacement questionnaires will give households that have not yet responded another opportunity to fill out their form and return it by mail. Unlike the first round of questionnaires, these will be mailed not dropped off by a trained census taker. The mailing is a polite reminder and surveys have found that this second questionnaire leads to higher response rates.

It is important that all Minnesotans are counted as seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are reapportioned each decade to the 50 states in accordance with the population actually counted in the census. State legislative districts are also determined by population counts achieved through the census. The data collected through the census also guides decision-makers in community planning efforts, including where to build new roads, hospitals and schools. Northern Minnesota could be at risk for redistricting, less representation in the U.S. Congress, and less federal and state funding should participation in the census be low.

Counting snowbirds

There have been concerns raised by Minnesota snowbirds who spend part of the year in southern states, often not returning north until late spring. According to the Minnesota State Demographic Center, if you live in Minnesota the majority of the year you should fill out your census as a Minnesota resident and not fill out the census form that arrives to your snowbird address.

Snowbirds who will return to Minnesota before April 19 can get a blank questionnaire at a Questionnaire Assistance Center or Be Counted Center in Minnesota. There are more than 200 locations statewide found at www.mn2010census.org.

Itasca County locations are:

Bovey Library, 402 2nd Street, Bovey

Calumet Library, 932 Gary Street, Calumet (218) 247-3108

City of Cohasset, 305 NW 1st Ave., Cohasset (218) 328-6225

City of Nashwauk, 301 Central Ave., Nashwauk (218) 885-1210

Coleraine Library, 203 Cole Avenue, Coleraine (218) 243-2315

Deer River City Hall, 208 2nd St. SE, Deer River (218) 246-8195

Grand Rapids Public Library, 140 NE 2nd St., Grand Rapids 218-326-7640

Marble City Hall, 302 Alice Avenue, Marble MN (218) 247-7676

Trained personnel at these Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs) will be available to help people complete the census form and have replacement forms for people who do not receive or have lost the form.

QACs will also have Census Questionnaire Guides in 59 languages, along with large-print forms and Teletext devices for persons with visual or hearing impairments. QACs will also provide reading and comprehension assistance to individuals to help them complete the form.

Snowbirds who plan to return to Minnesota after April 19 should find a QAC or Be Counted Center in their snowbird state. These can be found at http://2010.census/take10map/. These locations will have blank census forms that will allow snowbirds to be counted as Minnesota residents by filling in their permanent Minnesota address.

Anyone may also call for a replacement questionnaire. Call 1-866-872-6868 after April 12 to be sent a replacement blank census form allowing people to be counted as Minnesota residents. Before April 12, callers will be required to give a Census ID from the personal form before a replacement will be sent.

Another option is to wait to return to Minnesota when Census Bureau employees will be going door to door to check whether homes are vacant. This process will begin sometime after May 1 and continue through July.

By law, the Census Bureau must deliver population counts to the President of the U.S. for apportionment by December 31, 2010. The Census Bureau will deliver redistricting data to states in March 2011.

In the last census, one in six households received long questionnaires asking for detailed socioeconomic information. In 2010, every resident will receive a short questionnaire that is simple and fast to complete and return. More detailed information is expected to be collected annually from a small percentage of the population through the American Community Survey.

The 2010 Census asks four general questions about household, such as whether you own or rent your home, and six questions about each individual in the household, including name, sex, age, date of birth and race. The Census requests names to help ensure that people are not counted twice and allow you, and only you, the right to obtain a record from the Census Bureau at a later time for proof of age or citizenship.

The answers provided through the Census are confidential. This means the Census Bureau cannot give out information identifying a person to any other individual or agency, including the IRS, FBI, CIA or any other government agency.

For more information, visit www.2010census.gov or www.mn2010census.org.

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