Census recruits thousands for millennium count
June 25, 1999
From Correspondent Gary Tuchman
NEW YORK (CNN) -- In what is sometimes described as the largest peacetime mobilization in U.S. history, the U.S. Census Bureau is trying to recruit some 860,000 temporary employees for the 2000 census, which officially begins next April.
The federal agency is reaching out to state and local governments, tribal governments, community-based organizations, media and the private sector. Some members of those groups will be hired as "census partnership specialists" to reassure people who are concerned about giving out personal information.
Kewulay Kamara is already on the job as a specialist, explaining to minority groups why it is important that everyone in America be counted and why no one should fear giving information to the census takers.
U.S. law prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing any information to other federal agencies, so illegal immigrants are being told they should step up and be counted and not to worry about being deported because of any information in the census questionnaires.
"I assure them confidentiality is of utmost importance," said partnership specialist Eun Joo Kim.
The census has been part of American life since 1790. The U.S. Constitution requires the counting procedure to take place every 10 years to help draw Congressional districts.
The census also tells the nation's history -- in numbers only. Such as how many people live where, how much they earn, how many attend school and many other qualities that can be quantified.
"It shows us where we were, who we are today, and therefore where we're going," said Sam Roberts, author of "Who We Are."
And these days, the Census determines where tens of billions of dollars in federal aid are going. That's what the partnership specialists try to impress on their neighbors.
"If you don't fill out the census forms, its going to affect how much funding you get in your community, which in turn will affect the roads, the schools, the hospital services, the health care," Kim said.
The Census Bureau counted 4 million people in the United States back in 1790. Now 22 states each have 4 million or more residents. So Census 2000 will be a daunting task.
But with its partnership specialists, the Census Bureau believes it has people it can count on to do the counting.
Parties wage war over 2000 census
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