By Michael Heins
Census 2000 is looking to surpass its 1990 census count by getting the word out.
For the past several months, census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt has challenged governors, mayors, tribal leaders, and other highly elected officials to increase their local community's initial mail response rates by 5-percentage points over their 1990 response rates.
"I feel good. We are 12-percentage points ahead of the 1990 census at this point," said Tim Mack, census director in Great Falls.
The recent media coverage has helped to get the word out about the census, Mack said.
"We owe a lot to the press coverage in getting the word out on the importance of the census," he said "Montana is 12th in the nation for response. This is a rural state and a lot of people are patriotic.
"It's largely due to a business and government partnership and others who realize the importance of getting out the word out about the Census."
Craig Erickson, with Bear Paw Development Corporation, said the recent news coverage on the Census 2000 was very important and credits the coverage with being a significant reason for Havre and Hill County each having a high response rates.
"The Census Bureau will send a census taker to each household that does not mail its questionnaire," Susan A. Lavin, director of the Census Bureau Denver Region, said. "This is a very labor intensive and time- consuming process, which costs the taxpayers more in the long run. We'd like to get as many possible to mail back their forms."
Communities can check the daily progress of their Census 2000 response rates or for help in filling out the forms through the Internet at www.census.gov. To receive telephone questionnaire assistance call 1-800-471-9424.