Commentary: Census forms are important for federal money

If you haven't already received one, you'll soon get a rather nondescript official envelope in the mail.

Don't toss it in the trash.

It's the 2010 census form, and it's not only your civic duty to return it, it's in your financial best interest.

The form, one of the shortest and simplest versions in recent memory, asks very basic questions – name, age, ethnicity – and will take only a few minutes to fill out.

That small chore, however, has huge consequences. The once-a-decade population count will determine how nearly $450 billion a year in federal assistance – nearly $1,500 a person, according to a new Brookings Institution study – will be divvied up for everything from school lunches and health care for the poor to road construction.

In 2000, only 55 percent of Sacramento households mailed back their forms, far less than the 70 percent return rate statewide. That means more than 13,000 Sacramentans went uncounted, a gap that cost local governments and school districts millions in lost federal funds over the decade.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.