Time to stand up and be counted
By Duke Aiona
Every household in our state will receive a census questionnaire in the mail beginning in March, and it will be incumbent upon all of us to make sure each household is counted.
The 2010 U.S. Census gives our residents the ability to accurately show the unique demographics in our state, secure our fair share of federal funds and make sure our voice is heard in Washington.
It is in our hands to make sure our state is represented accurately.
Residents will be asked to provide information about their household as of April 1, 2010, and it will be one of the shortest in the history of the census, consisting of 10 questions and taking about 10 minutes to complete.
It is important that our residents take the time to complete and return this survey as Hawai'i has historically had one of the lowest response rates in the country. In the 2000 census, only 60 percent of Hawai'i residents returned census forms, the third lowest rate in the country.
A study of that census showed the nation's final head count was about 1.8 percent below the actual population, while the undercount in Hawai'i was 2.16 percent. This year, for each 1 percent increase in mail response across the country, an estimated $80 to $90 million in taxpayer dollars will be saved.
Not only this, but it is estimated that Hawai'i lost $310 million in federal funds and services since the last census, which equals about $1,000 for each resident that went uncounted.
Federal funds allocated through the census data, particularly during challenging economic times, are important for our state to support our hospitals, schools, transportation systems and provide vital services for the people of Hawai'i.
The recent federal stimulus program allocated funding to states according to their population, showing just how important it is that Hawai'i receives its fair share based on an accurate count of every resident in our state.
The results of the 2010 Census will also be used to distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds each year to states and local communities.
In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau is hiring 1.2 million people for temporary census-taking jobs, which will inject $2.3 billion into the U.S. economy. About 3,000 of those jobs will be in Hawai'i, where workers will knock on doors in neighborhoods for households that do not return the questionnaire.
It is important that workers are able to effectively go door-to-door to collect data by speaking the same language of the diverse ethnic groups in Hawai'i. We want our census workers to work in the same neighborhood where they live, so that somebody coming to the door will be welcomed as a neighbor.
Community representatives are needed throughout our state to ensure that every Hawai'i resident is counted this year for us to receive our fair share of federal funds.
Furthermore, the census is a foundation for our democracy and the results are used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to redraw the boundaries of our state legislative districts and even some voting districts.
Whether a citizen or noncitizen, everyone must be counted. Participating in this quick and completely confidential process will provide each and every resident in Hawai'i the chance to do his or her part to improve our state.
Participation is critical to ensure that our residents are accurately represented in Congress and that we receive appropriate resources to modernize infrastructure, improve our education, create jobs and much more. The ball is in our court.