Tips on how to fill out the residency information on 2010 census forms.
That’s the message from officials with state and local governments and area agencies on aging, who are trying to educate snowbirds about the importance of making sure they are counted as Michigan residents when census forms are delivered to households in late February and March.
Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who is heading the state’s census count effort, said the state estimates about 200,000 snowbirds were missed or not counted as Michigan residents in the 2000 census. He said the uncounted snowbirds contributed to the state’s loss of a seat in Congress and about $2 billion in federal funds over this decade.
Population counts also affect federal dollars that come to the state for hospitals, schools, senior centers, public works projects and emergency services.
“We have a better understanding of what Michigan will lose,” said Paul Bridgewater of the Detroit Area Agency on Aging. “That’s why we’re working harder this year to minimize the loss of the past.”
Billions in funding relies on snowbirds
Rosanne and William Bowker are among the metro Detroiters preparing to leave Michigan’s cold, snowy winter for Florida’s warm sun.
The Royal Oak couple became snowbirds about four years ago after William retired from Chrysler. The 65-year-olds plan to leave after Christmas for their Ft. Myers campground — complete with its own mailbox — for the next four months.
In past snowbird seasons, their neighbors collected their mail and their daughter sent it to them in Florida. But this season, they are having their mail forwarded by the Post Office.
That means they won’t get the 2010 census form that should hit their Michigan mailbox in March. Census forms are not forwarded by the post office because they are based on the residence, not the person, said Kim Hunter, a census bureau media specialist in Detroit.
Rosanne Bowker admitted she never thought about the census form. But after learning that an estimated 200,000 Michigan snowbirds were missed or not counted in the 2000 census, costing the state a congressional seat and about $2 billion in federal funds, she wants to be counted as a resident of her home state.
“I didn’t realize how important it was,” she said.
State, local and Area Agency on Aging officials said it’s critical that Michigan have an accurate tally of its population in the decennial count to receive federal dollars that are directly tied to population and to maintain political influence in Washington on issues such as the auto industry, health care reform and the Great Lakes.
Kenneth Darga, state demographer, said Michigan lost a congressional seat in the 2000 census by just 50,000 people.
“If a portion of our 200,000″ snowbirds “would have been counted, we wouldn’t have lost that seat,” he said.