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Census joins Operation Lone Star

LA JOYA, Texas, 29 July, 2009 -- When customers walk into the Medical Innovative Training Team Sites (MIRTTS) that form the medical service arm of this year's Operation Lone Star, they all expect to see quality medical personnel. For some, seeing a table set up with information about the upcoming U.S. Census seems a bit out of place.

Improving the accuracy of the census count in the Rio Grand Valley is a very important part of increasing the availability of social services to areas that are truly in need, said Gary Cooper, a Partnership Assistant for the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Rio Grand Valley, which hosts the MIRTTS of Operation Lone Star, had one of the lowest response rates of the state in the the past census, said Cooper, and the Partnership Program has been designed as a way of better informing the residents of that area just how important it is to fill out and return the upcoming census forms.

"Some funding is directly based on the number of reported residents," said Cooper. "Things like funding levels for new schools, senior centers, highways and other social services are often decided based on our understanding of the number of residents and their ages."

Cooper, who is fluent in Spanish, handed out bi-lingual information forms and answered questions for the customers who visited his station, emphasizing that the questions the Census Bureau wanted answered were considered private and would under no circumstances be shared with any other government agencies such as the police or immigration authorities.

According to Cooper, each resident who is not accurately counted costs a community around $1000.

"We say 10 minutes, 10 questions, 10 years of impact'," Cooper concluded. "Responding to the census questions is one of the best ways these residents can help us determine how to better help them and meet their needs."