Census 2000 counters may be visiting more area homes than expected after an apparent mailing snafu.
Residents in Merrifield and along North Long Lake with post office box numbers reported they did not receive census forms in the mail. At the Duluth census office, which covers Crow Wing County, officials said some confusion may have arisen from Enhanced 911 address changes.
However, smaller post offices, such as the one in Merrifield, report carriers are so familiar with residents in the smaller communities they can typically carry mail to addresses by the name alone.
So why post office box holders may have been missed remains unexplained.
Census officials expect to look at those areas where response has been less than expected by the end of April or early May.
According to the census time line, between May and July census takers will visit homes that did not complete a census form. Between August and December census results will be tabulated and delivered to the president.
The primary mission of Census 2000 is to count every person. The count is used for everything from the number of representatives in the U.S. Congress to distribution of federal funds.
Census counters will visit housing unit addresses that have not returned a census form. Answers on the forms are kept confidential. By law the Census Bureau cannot share information with welfare agencies, immigration services, the Internal Revenue Service, courts, police or the military.
The Bureau of the Census notes that form questions are required by law to manage or evaluate federal programs and funding. Those federal dollars are involved in schools, employment services, housing assistance, road construction, hospital services and programs for the elderly. Cities use the information to help decide where to locate police and fire stations and other public services.
The long form was scheduled to go out to one in six housing units. Some questions there referred to highway planners and centered on gathering information about where people live and work and what times they begin their daily work commutes.
Area residents who did not receive a short or long census form in the mail may call the Census 2000 help line at 800-471-9424. Census forms can no longer be mailed to residents. But to make sure people are counted, callers will be assisted with census form completion over the phone.
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