Friday, Jan 22–Accurate Census A Concern For Officials

SNOW HILL – Census numbers do not include the boom in population from summer tourists, which skews the amount of money allocated to the county to provide basic services, the Worcester County Commissioners told a Census 2010 representative this week.

The county receives funding based on the population of the county at the beginning of April, which does not take into account the increased summer demand for emergency services, for example.

The U.S. Constitution mandates a population Censes be conducted every 10 years, which affects Congressional representation and the allotment of federal money.

Ocean Pines has 52 percent non-resident property owners, while over 90 percent of Ocean City’s property owners do not reside in the resort on a year-round basis, Commissioner Judy Boggs said. People tend to spend three or four months away over the winter and spring, including April, she noted.

“In the Census, you are counted wherever you are April 1,” said Census 2010 representative Jacqueline Lisjuan. “They’ll be counted somewhere else in the nation.”

Lisjuan acknowledged that there are issues at stake particular to Worcester County.

Since Ocean Pines and Ocean City have become more residential but do not show that in the statistics, Lisjuan said Census 2010 and the county need to work together to bring that to light.

“When the time comes, you need that funding there,” said Lisjuan, which will provide more police officers and more access to emergency services for the extended summer population.

The Census also needs to coordinate with hotels and local tourism departments to determine summer numbers, Lisjuan said.

“What happens in Worcester doesn’t really happen anywhere else in Maryland,” Lisjuan said.

The county could be losing millions of dollars with the summer population uncounted in the Census, said Commission President Bud Church.

“I don’t know how you correct that problem,” Church said.

A specific plan to address that issue is needed, said Lisjuan.

“If we don’t get it now, we have to wait 10 years,” said Lisjuan. “Ten years is too long.”

A related issue is that of the county’s homeless population, Boggs said. Many are not homeless in the sense that they are out on the street, but they move from place to place, staying with family or friends.

“They have a place to live but it’s not their home,” said Boggs.

Lisjuan said that Census 2010 is working with local counties on the homeless issue, especially people living on the street.

One issue for every jurisdiction, Lisjuan said, is that some populations and neighborhoods are undercounted even after Census 2010 sent out address verifiers, which is why she came before the County Commissioners asking for help.

Commissioner Louise Gulyas suggested speaking to local mayors and town councils as well as organizations like the Commission on Aging to identify any other underrepresented areas.

The economy is another issue anticipated to interfere with Census 2010, she said, since so many Americans have lost their homes.

By law, all people in the United States must fill out the Census form, whether they are legal residents or not. Those who do not send the form in or do not completely answer all the questions will receive a phone call or visit from Census workers.

The 10-question form asks for the number of people in the household, whether the home is owned or rented, the phone number, names of household members, their sexes, ages, and races and whether any member of the household lives elsewhere part of the time such as at college, in the military, or in prison.

“We’re not asking for your social security number. We’re not asking if you are a citizen,” said Lisjuan.

Many people think that the Census passes information on to local authorities like law enforcement, but by law Census workers are not allowed to do so.

“We do not do that. The information is completely confidential and safe,” Lisjuan said.

Several reminders will be mailed out, before and after the Census due date.

“We want people to hear about it so much people get a little tired of it and just want to complete the form and get it done with,” said Lisjuan.

Census 2010 workers are still needed locally. The census is recruiting at local libraries for a variety of temporary positions.

“We’re needing hundreds, hundreds of employees. It’s only for a few months but it’s $13 an hour,” Lisjuan said.

“Even if they are temporary jobs they would be most welcome here,” said Boggs.