Census count enters 'home stretch'

Posted: Monday, May 31, 2010

The U.S. Census Bureau is making a renewed effort to reach out into Alaska's hard-to-count rural areas, as well as those in Juneau and other cities they have not yet visited.

"We're trying to let people know that the census has not concluded, the census is still underway," said Katherine Eldemar, co-chair of Juneau's Complete Count Committee.

"It's basically the home stretch," she said.

This week a series of radio announcements will begin airing from prominent Southeast leaders, including Sen. Albert Kookesh, Clarence Jackson of Kake, Jodi Mitchell of Inside Passage Electric Cooperative, Rep. Bill Thomas of Haines, Cheryl Eldemar of SEARHC and Oceana, retired JPD officer Ben Coronel, and legislative aide Nancy Barnes.

Many of those are also part of Sealaska Corp. including Kookesh, who serves as chairman of the regional Native corporation's board. Katherine Eldemar is assistant to the president of Sealaska.

The low count among Alaska Natives was particularly big in the 2000 census, and strong efforts are being made to get the message out to rural communities, Coronel said.

"It's tough enough to live in the rural communities without missing out on this chance to get the federal spending," he said.

Coronel is currently with the U.S. Marshal's Service at the Juneau Federal Building.

"I think the average person out there, they just don't realize how important the Census is because it affects the next 10 years," he said.

More than $400 billion in federal funds are allocated annually based on census data to pay for local programs and services such as highways, vocational training, emergency services, hospitals and much more, said Ruben Del Valle, a Seattle-based media specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau.

Del Valle visited Juneau to work on the radio campaign last week.

The new radio campaign was modeled after one developed in Washington State, but will be probably 10 times as extensive, he said.

Those who have not yet been counted and fear they may have been missed can call the Census Bureau at 1-866-872-6868 and complete the form over the phone, Del Valle said.

"That's available for them to pick up the phone and say, "I want to be counted," Eldemar said.

It is also not too late to return the mailed form.

"If they still have the form that was sent to them in the mail, they can still send that in and be counted as well, Eldemar said.

Coronel said people in Alaska may have to work harder to be counted, but it is also important to ensure the state's Rural Caucus in the Alaska Legislature has as many members as possible.

"The rural communities are going to lose a voice on the hill if the numbers aren't there," Coronel said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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