Census campaign hopes to reach ‘hard-to-reach’ population

The Vermillion city government is encouraging citizens of the community to "Take 10" and help the city get what it needs for the next 10 years.

Specifically, it has launched a campaign encouraging townsfolk to set aside 10 minutes and complete their U.S. Census forms when they arrive.

"The Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company has recognized the importance of a complete and accurate count with the 2010 census this year," Evie Johnson, a Vermillion city staff member, told the Vermillion City Council recently.

Various community members are currently serving on a newly formed Complete Count Committee. We've really focused on how to find the hard-to-count population," she said.

"We've worked really hard to develop an in-depth marketing plan that includes everyone in Clay County and in the city of Vermillion, and really hones in on our students.

"We really believe that this highly mobile student population is really where we are missing our count in Vermillion," Johnson said.

It is estimated that data on nearly one-third of the Vermillion population wasn't collected during the last U.S. Census, conducted a decade ago.

"The numbers that we had said that we had a 69 percent rate (of participation) in 2000, so just about one-in-three people were being missed by the census in Vermillion," Johnson said.

It is important that everyone be counted, she told the Vermillion City Council at its Jan. 19 meeting.

"The census really can help our community with federal funding and also with economic development," Johnson said. "That's why the Chamber has really stepped up. 'Vermillion Now' has acknowledged the importance of an accurate count by committing $5,800 to the project. We need another $1,000 for the project to market in all area newspapers and to really hone in on the hard-to-count student population."

The premise of the local marketing theme is "You Count Here."

"One of the things that we're doing in our ad campaign is taking pictures of people who live in Vermillion," Johnson said. "Some are students, some are faculty members, and we also will feature people who have lived in Vermillion all of their lives, and we're going to use those people to help market Vermillion and say, 'they count here, and so do you.' "

An accurate census count, she said, hopefully will assist Vermillion's economic development efforts in the future.

The Vermillion City Council agreed to supply $1,000 in revenue from the city's bed, board and booze sales tax to the census-marketing plan.

"I believe that this accurate census count for the community is one of the most important things that we can do in 2010 to help community image, economic development efforts and other grant funding requests and other things that we will deal with for the next 10 years," Mayor Dan Christopherson said. "To my knowledge, I don't think we have had a Complete Count Committee in the last 20 or 30 years, and we've probably been undercounted in many areas on the census."

This month, more than 130 million addresses across the nation, including households in Clay County and the city of Vermillion, will receive a 2010 Census form by mail or hand delivery. The 2010 Census will document the changes in the nation since the last decennial census in 2000. Census data affects how more than $400 billion in federal funding is distributed to tribal, state and local governments.

The 2010 Census form asks 10 questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete. The individual in whose name the housing unit is rented or owned should complete the form on behalf of every person living there, both relatives and nonrelatives.

Information from the census helps determine locations for child-care and senior centers, new roads, hospitals, schools and community centers. By law, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot share respondents' answers with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities. All Census Bureau employees take an oath of nondisclosure and are sworn to protect the confidentiality of the data.

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