07/05/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The 2010 Census: Steady Progress

The Decennial Census, a snapshot of America that began in March, will determine many important issues in our communities including apportionment of congressional seats and the allotment of Federal and State aid for vital services in our schools, senior centers and critical infrastructure projects. With billions of dollars at stake, the answers to 10 simple questions on the census form will have a huge impact across the country for the next decade.

After consecutive undercounts in 1990 and 2000, the Census Bureau took unprecedented action to raise awareness about the importance of completing and returning the 2010 census forms. As a result, the response rate to mailed questionnaires increased from 67 percent in 2000, to 72 percent of American households in 2010. When you consider that the Census Bureau estimates that each percentage increase in the response rate of the mailed forms saves $80 million, the five percent increase saved American taxpayers more than $400 million.

A new phase of that snapshot began on May 1st. As part of the non-response follow-up phase of the 2010 count, Census takers are now going door-to-door to contact the remaining 48 million households that did not mail back their Census form. Census takers will go door to door until July 10, 2010, making up to three visits and three phone calls at each household to complete the Census count.

To reach all these households, the Census Bureau hired 635,000 employees, providing a significant boost to our economy as it continues to recover from the economic downturn. All census takers were fingerprinted, underwent a full FBI background check and took an oath to maintain the privacy of the census data they collect. Every Census worker will have an official identification badge and may carry a black canvas bag with the Census Bureau logo.

Census takers will only ask questions that appear on the 2010 Census form. It is important that anyone contacted by an official census taker answers all the questions fully. They are prohibited by law from asking for any personal information and will not ask any questions pertaining to any outstanding legal proceedings or an individual's immigration status.

As Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, one of the committees charged with oversight of the census, I am committed to ensuring an accurate count and protecting the integrity of the Census. Last week I worked with my colleagues on the Committee to remove any ambiguity from legislation passed earlier this year to bring an end to misleading fundraising mail designed to look like it is from the Census Bureau.

Working together we thought we put an end to this deceptive practice. Unfortunately, the foolishness of the RNC to move forward with yet another deceptive mail piece forced us to act again. The bipartisan legislation that passed the House unanimously will put an end to citizens receiving misleading fundraising mail designed to look like it is from the Census Bureau. Our legislation makes it clear that any use of the word 'Census' visible through the envelope will trigger a requirement to disclose the name and return address of the sender.

While several steps to a successful census count remain, I am encouraged by the Census Bureau's efforts to urge residents to complete and mail back their census forms. I hope that the Census Bureau will build upon this early success and complete the most accurate count in recent memory.