Census Takers Start Their Count in March
What's your race? What type of home do you live in? And how many people live in that home?
All easy questions, and the basis for some of the biggest decisions made by government officials. The coming year brings the Census, which has implications from shaping how nearly $400 billion in federal funding is spent to how many members of Congress each state has.
It is also a contentious process because historically many groups have not been counted, particularly migrant workers, children and university students. In Florida, lawmakers have held some meetings already to deal with potential impacts of the census, but so far, without any action.
Earlier this year, state Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, wrote House Speaker Larry Cretul urging him to support legislation that would put $10 million toward identifying the state's hard-to-count residents in the 2010 census.
"It is crucial that these individuals be counted," Thurston wrote.
The count also determines how much Florida will collect from Washington for hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, public works projects and emergency services.
One of the biggest decisions that hinge on the census is how many representatives Florida will get in the U.S. Congress. Every 10 years, the number of representatives per state is adjusted depending on the population. It also helps determine how state legislative districts are drawn.
Amy Baker, the Legislature's lead economist, told a House council in October that Florida will likely gain only one congressional seat following next year's census --down from the two additional seats state officials had expected to land before the economic slowdown. Some estimates had Florida losing residents this year -- the state's first decline since shortly after World War II.
Floridians won't see census forms in their mailboxes until March, with the government asking that they be returned by April 1. Then, from April to July, census takers will visit households that did not return a form by mail. In December, the Census Bureau will deliver population information to the President for Congressional apportionment, and in March of 2011, it delivers redistricting data to the states.