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Remarks at Atlanta Census Roundtable, Atlanta, Georgia

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AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Friday, February 26, 2010

CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

202-482-4883

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Dennis F. Hightower
Remarks at Atlanta Census Roundtable
Atlanta, Georgia

Thank you, Reginald.

And I want to thank all of our census partners for joining us today, and for their help in this historic undertaking.

After so many months of careful planning for the 2010 Census, the official count has begun.

It is now time for our efforts to kick into high gear.

It is never easy to get a full and accurate count of America’s 300 million plus citizens.

But this year, we face an added challenge.

Millions of Americans are struggling to find work and shelter for their families.

Despite the extraordinary efforts the Obama administration has made to stabilize the economy and keep people in their homes—the Census Bureau must plan for the likelihood that it will be more difficult to find people who—because of lost home values or foreclosures—have relocated.

Maybe they’re renting or doubling up with relatives or in a shelter temporarily.

That will present logistical challenges for Census counters unseen in generations.

In addition to the practical hurdles the housing crisis presents for this year’s decennial, we know there may be some who are embarrassed by their current living situation.

And they may worry about whether information they give to the Census will be shared with creditors or other agencies in the federal government.

That is why, more than ever, we need the help of trusted community leaders like all of you to educate people about the Census.

Every Georgian has to know that the information they provide to the Census Bureau is strictly confidential.

It is illegal for the Census Bureau to share personal information with any other government agency, including municipal and county authorities, immigration and law enforcement.

And Census employees who disclose any information that could identify an individual or a household are subject to a jail term, a fine—or both.

Citizens in Georgia also need to know that the 2010 Census is not just an exercise in enumeration. It is an exercise in empowerment.

The 2010 Census data will determine how many representatives a state has in Congress—and will also serve as the foundation for drawing up legislative districts.

The Census will also directly determine how more than $400 billion a year in federal funding is allocated to state and local governments for things like education, human services, transportation and public safety. With states across the country in the red, this funding can play a big role in shoring up budgets.

Especially in these difficult economic times, Georgians cannot afford to not participate in the Census. Because non-participants are quite simply shortchanging the communities where they live

To help ensure that the Census can overcome some of these barriers to participation, we are making the process as easy as possible.

We have a short-form only census. Ten questions which should take about 10 minutes to complete, and none of these questions asks about voting, citizenship or immigration status.

We’re also providing language assistance guides in 59 languages. In 2000, the mail response to the Census in Atlanta was 59 percent, which was six percent less than the national average. We can do better. And we must do better.

For each one percent increase in response rate, the Census Bureau saves about $90 million nationally by not having to send people door to door to count.

We want to reach everyone, whether they have a mail address or not. It is only once every 10 years that America gets to take a self portrait.

We simply must get this count right.

For our mission to be successful, we are relying on partnerships with leaders in the community who are looked up to for their ability to inform, educate, and serve in the public interest.

People like those sitting at this table today.

I know all of you have already put a lot of work into making the 2010 Census a success. And I hope you can keep it up because we need you.