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Washington County responses to U.S. Census down from 2000

May 03, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
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HAGERSTOWN --The percentage of Washington County residents who responded to the U.S. Census this year showed a slight decrease from the last Census that was taken in 2000, according to figures that were released last week by the Maryland Department of Planning.

The Department of Planning said 73 percent of Washington County residents returned their Census forms this year, compared to 76 percent in 2000.

The mail-back phase of the Census was completed April 16. On Saturday, the U.S. Census Bureau began visiting households that didn't return their forms. Census officials estimate that each household visit will cost the government $57.

Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen Maher said failure to answer the Census can have negative consequences. A municipality won't receive as much federal funding to help pay for projects, she said, if the number of residents who live there is under-represented.

"It can have an impact in the federal dollars that come to our community to help our community," she said.

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The Department of Planning estimates that an undercount of as little as 1,000 of Maryland's 5.8 million residents could result in the loss of $10 million in federal funding over the next decade.

The response to the Census in Washington County this year was below the state average of 74 percent, which remained unchanged from 2000, according to Census statistics. The national participation rate was 72 percent. Maryland was tied for 15th place among the states.

Washington County Health Department spokesman Rod MacRae said the Census participation rate has little influence on the way health officials do business.

He said the health department orders vaccines based on the amount of past usage, not based on Census figures.

"A lot of times, like flu vaccine, we use historic precedent," he said. "We know, on the basis of what we've done in the past, what we expect to do."

MacRae said the health department uses the Census on rare occasions to probe county demographics, such as the number of non-English speaking residents to determine whether foreign-language interpreters need to be hired to distribute information.

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