Video: Census 2010 outreach targets minorities

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    >>> with 2010 coming up fast, the government is launching the messive effort that happens every ten years in this country to count everybody in the country. a hispanic community group caused controversy with a poster. based on a bible verse that suggests jesus was born during a census . some religious leaders and scholars say it show as lack of respect and was out of line. census bureau says it played no role creating that poster whatsoever. all this part of what minority leaders said is an ongoing problem with the census , undercounting african- americans and hispanics . our report from nbc's john yang .

    >> are you having any pain here?

    >> reporter: this year tens of thousands of african- americans and hispanics rely on this chicago clinic for their health care . how much federal money the center gets in the next decade depends a lot on next year's census .

    >> having an accurate census account is critically important to be sure we capture every single person eligible for health care services .

    >> reporter: historically the census undercounted minorities. in the 2000 census , an estimated 4.5 million people were missed. the census isn't just an academic exercise. it determines whether states gain or lose seats in congress and the results at the state and local levels dictate how at least $478 billion in federal funds are distributed. in washington african-american leaders met with top census officials.

    >> what happens in this census is going to haunt us or actually benefit us for the next 50 years.

    >> reporter: as a result of the 2000 undercount, 31 states and the district of columbia aren't getting at least $4.1 billion they deserve over ten years, almost all of it for health care for the poor. next year's count faces special challenges. people have been displaced by foreclosures and immigrants might not trust government workers on the crackdown of illegal immigration .

    >> these are often the same people who night be in need of services.

    >> reporter: next year they launch a $300 million advertising campaign, much of it targeted to african- americans and hispanics urging them to fill out the forms. but the chicago health clinic ,

updated 12/16/2009 8:48:10 PM ET 2009-12-17T01:48:10

Black groups on Wednesday urged the government to improve the count of African-Americans in next year's high-stakes census, saying they won't be satisfied with a tally that has historically overlooked millions in their community.

The National Urban League, the NAACP, Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson met with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to voice their concerns the Census Bureau might not be doing enough to ensure an accurate tally. Roughly 3 million blacks were missed in 2000, while many whites were overcounted.

"The undercount of blacks in the last count and the overcount of whites by 1 percent is not just a Washington statistic," Sharpton said at a news briefing after the meeting. "It manifests itself in goods and services that cost us."

"We want what is ours," he said.

The groups called for the Census Bureau, an agency of the Commerce Department, to expand its paid advertising to cities such as Newark, N.J.; Oakland, Calif.; parts of Mississippi and other areas that have high percentages of hard-to-count blacks, many of whom are distrustful of government workers.

Pushing for more funding
They also are pushing for more census funding specifically targeted at black communities. About $23 million, or roughly 17 percent of the $133 million allocated for media buys, is currently earmarked for black communities to promote the census.

The black leaders said they wanted to see a change in how the government tallies prisoners, so they are counted as residents of the cities in which they previously lived, not in the places where a prison is located.

"There are a lot more things that have to be done for us to say that we are confident that this plan can address the historic undercount in this nation," said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and chair of the 2010 Census Advisory Committee.

Commerce officials said the Census Bureau would take a second look at its $300 million communications campaign to determine if there are ways to make it better. The bureau kicks off its ad campaign next month and will conduct its head count via mail and door-to-door canvassing next spring.

"African Americans and other minority communities have been consistently undercounted in past censuses so we're grateful to the respected leaders we met with for their commitment to achieving an accurate count," Locke said in a statement.

The population figures, gathered every 10 years, are used to apportion House seats and distribute nearly $450 billion in federal aid.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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