Those with post office boxes should expect a visit
June 11, 2008 · Updated 10:54 AM
"Kitsap County residents or tribal members living on reservations may already have been visited by someone from the Census Bureau. In rural areas where people are more likely to have post office boxes, Census Bureau field workers leave the offices and go door to door, gathering household information.Jim Looper, recruiting manager for the Silverdale Local Census Office, said field recruits are sent back into their own counties to make everyone more comfortable - respondants as well as workers. They're more comfortable when they recognize people they know, he said.But, given the hesitation some people have about answering census questions, some don't like the idea of someone they know collecting that information from them.Looper said all Census Bureau employees are sworn to confidentiality, and all information gathered is considered confidential, whether on the long form, short form or in person.We're sworn to secrecy, he said, adding there's a $5,000 fine and jail time for divulging any information. Information gathered is entered into the Census Bureau's computer system, where it remains protected and secure, complete with firewalls, Looper said.The local census office hasn't received any more complaints than could be expected, he said, adding that the census is a necessary evil. I understand the concerns and questions, he said. I think they can all be answered.The federal government takes statistical information generated from the answers on census forms and allocates funding to those areas based on population and income, among other things.Because Native American communities have been undercounted in the past, the Census Bureau made a special effort to get out to reservations. We enjoyed going to the reservations, he said. We got a good response.Looper conceded there might be some level of discomfort with the census questions, but encouraged people to fill out the forms or answer the questions. He cited children as an example.Kids are really important here. If adults don't do what's necessary and communicate with the government, kids' needs aren't going to be met, he said. You have to provide some information to get funding and support. Besides, most of the information, like income, is already available in other places, he added.The Census Bureau will be compiling questionnaire information during the next few months, after which time a quality assurance team will check to verify the quantifications arrived at by the Census Bureau.By Dec. 31, a final product will be given to the President. Looper added that the copy the President sees has no names, only statistics."