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Remarks at 2010 Census Event, Queens, New York

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AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Thursday, April 8, 2010

CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

202-482-4883

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at 2010 Census Event
Queens, New York

Thank you, Congressman Crowley, for the kind introduction and for the great work you’re doing in Congress for the people of New York and for the nation.

Congressman Crowley has been a great partner of the Commerce Department and a strong voice to help us get a complete count in the 2010 Census.

I also want to thank the Congressman for organizing this meeting.

We are getting to crunch time for mail-back responses to the 2010 Census, and we need the help everyone in this room to get folks to fill out their forms and mail them back.

The success of the 2010 Census does not rely on people in Washington like me talking about why the Census is important—it relies on people like you, the trusted voices here today, communicating with your neighbors and communities about why they should participate.

We all know that New York has been traditionally undercounted in the census and it’s time we turn that around.

As a whole, New York State is currently at a 57 percent mail-back response rate, six percent below the national response rate. But Queens stands at 47 percent and the Bronx is at 50 percent.

We really need trusted leaders like you to step up, continue as our partners in this effort and help us get a full and accurate picture of your community, the state and the nation.

Now, I don’t have to tell most of you here why the census is so important.

This is not just an exercise in enumeration—it’s an exercise in empowerment. Census data will determine:

  • How many representatives a state has in Congress;
  • How districts are drawn up for state legislative districts; and,
  • 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 and cities across the country cutting services and operating in the red, this funding can play a big role in filling those gaps.

This year we’ve made participation as easy as possible. The 2010 Census is the shortest in our lifetimes—only ten questions which should take about 10 minutes to complete.

In fact, my family recently filled out our household’s form. We made it a family effort, discussing the questions with our kids. And with all five of us working on it, it still took only about five minutes to complete.

The focus of the questions this year is so narrow that they are almost identical to the questions asked in the very first census in 1790.

And to aid the growing non-English speaking population in this country, we’re offering significant assistance in several languages.

For the first time, Census has sent out bilingual Spanish-English forms to some 13 million households.

The questionnaire is also available in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian. And assistance guides are available in 59 languages.

We also have multi-lingual staff all over the country.

All this in an effort to better reach the many communities all across this great nation.

And, before I wrap up, I want to emphasize one other point: All the information provided to the Census Bureau is strictly confidential.

  • It is illegal for the Census Bureau to share personal information with any other government agency, including 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.
  • Just recently, the Justice Department ruled that even the Patriot Act does not override census privacy protections.

It’s only once every 10 years that America gets to take a self portrait. We simply must get this right.

We want everyone to be counted. And we’re relying you to help us make that happen.

And I want to again thank Congressman Crowley for his support. Congressman, it’s clear to me that you understand the importance of getting everyone counted and are committed to seeing this through.

And, finally, thank you all for being here. Your work will help us get this right.