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Stand and be counted
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When our nation's founders wrote the Constitution of the United States, they required that the U.S. Census be taken every 10 years to count the number of people living in America. The first Census was taken in 1790 and has continued every 10 years since.

Our forefathers had a unique plan to empower the people over their new government by counting every person living in the newly created United States of America. The Census has been used for many things, including the establishment of military service. Today, it is primarily used to determine representation in Congress, thus ensuring accurate representation of the people by its government. The secondary use is to determine the pro-rata share of money from federal programs to communities. It is very important that everyone be counted. Privacy of this individual information is a Constitutional right. By law, individual Census records are sealed for 72 years. Only the aggregate total is shared.

The 2010 Census is 10 questions that should take about 10 minutes to fill out. The Census does not ask about the legal status of citizens nor for their Social Security numbers. The data collected help determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

An accurate count of the U.S. population forms the basis for many important but sometimes overlooked political, economic and social decisions that affect our daily lives. The Census data will help our state and local governments apply for more than $400 billion in federal funds each year for things like: health and hospital aid, Medicaid, job training centers, schools, senior centers, etc. Funds from Highway Planning and Construction for road and bridge projects are allocated in part on the basis of a state's share of the national population. This data is the allocation of all federal and state funding for our county for the entire 10 years following the Census count. It is vital that everyone be counted!

The numbers we use to enlist economic development are based on the Census data now and the next 10 years following. Small local businesses, local non-profit agencies and some residents use the census numbers to support community initiatives, especially those that require community level data in grant applications for funding.

In total for federal program expenditures, Georgia ranks 11th - but we rank 31st in per capita income. We are considered a donor state. For every one dollar in taxes we pay, we receive approximately 80 percent in federal program funding. In order to bridge the gap between the money put in and the assistance received, Georgians all over the state are making efforts to be counted in 2010.

The current national response rate is 52 percent and Georgia's is 47 percent. Newton County's response rate is 49 percent lagging behind our neighbors Henry and Walton. Our response rate in 2000 was 76 percent. We can do better! If you do not have a form, they are available at the library and courthouse.

On April 10, Newton County will host a March to the Mailbox. Please join me in our march to be sure Newton County is counted and we receive our fair share of federal dollars. Second to the right to vote, this is the most important thing you can do for your community. Please, stand up and be counted!

Kathy Morgan is the chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners.