Juneau residents outdoing other Alaskans on census

Numbers may mean another $30 million for government programs.

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2000

Juneau is earning bureaucratic brownie points by returning census forms at a greater rate than all other Alaska cities - but we could make an even better showing.

The better we do, the more federal funds we get.

Thirty million dollars could swirl down the fiscal drain if Juneau residents don't hold up their end of the nationwide population count.

In the 1990 Census, Juneau's population was undercounted by 3,000 people, said Brad Marshall, planning supervisor with the city's Community Development Department. Each resident counted brings about $1,000 per year into city coffers, said Marshall, who has his finger on the pulse of the local census.

Multiply 3,000 people by a thousand bucks by 10 years and you get the astounding figure of $30 million.

The 2000 Census is in its initial but busiest stage right now. Preliminary results show that Juneau leads Alaska's cities in response rate. As of Tuesday, 21 percent of local residents had filled in and returned the census forms they found in their mailboxes.

That's great news, Marshall said - but he wants more.

``We've had good response so far, but, in a nutshell, we want to keep it going,'' Marshall said. ``We want to keep the ball rolling.''

Among the uncounted or undercounted, numbers of the homeless, Native Americans and ethnic minorities often loom large, he said.

``Sometimes people are reluctant to be counted because they are living an atypical lifestyle - like six to 10 people in a household; and they fear the landlord might find out,'' Marshall said. He assured residents that information on census forms does not get back to landlords.

The 2000 Census will continue until the end of May. Marshall expects to hire 200 to 300 people to go door-to-door.

Official canvassers or ``enumerators'' will be pounding the pavement in the evenings and on weekends, trying to snag people who never received census forms - or are simply procrastinating.

Those who have not received their forms - or believe the dog ate them - can call a toll-free number at the Seattle Regional Office of the Census to request one. To have a census form mailed, call (800) 471-9424.

While licking the envelope flap to mail back the census form, take the opportunity to stick out your tongue at those other Alaska cities who came in after Juneau - Anchorage with 18 percent returns so far and Fairbanks with a puny 12 percent.

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