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Census takers are fanning out across Long Island

Although the Census Bureau has stopped sending its mailings to American homes, it's still counting.

Some 6,000 census takers are now fanning out across Long Island, looking to interview people who didn't return the census form. They are among an army of 635,000 census staffers knocking on doors nationwide.

"We have about 48 million addresses that we will begin to visit" between now and July 10, Robert Groves, U.S. Census Bureau director, said at a news conference Monday. "This is how we finish the count of 100 percent of the population."

"We will visit you if we sent you a form and you didn't mail it back, or you sent out an incomplete form, or if you submitted a form too late," he said. Census workers will visit, or call, up to six times to get information.

People who get their mail at post office boxes didn't get census forms at all and will be visited by census takers. Long Island's East End has a lot of post-office box people, and census takers began going door-to-door there in March.

Groves urged residents to open their doors to census takers, saying completing the forms was easy and important. A region's population count affects how much federal aid it gets for many programs.

Addressing safety concerns, Groves said every census applicant undergoes an FBI background and fingerprint check. He said the bureau fiercely protects confidentiality of residents' information. Census takers who violate that face 5 years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Groves said census takers are trained to retreat if faced with a hostile resident and to consult with a supervisor on an alternate method.

Census takers will have a badge around their neck and often carry a cloth briefcase with the Census Bureau logo on it, Groves said. They will also have a binder listing addresses. He said census takers will not ask for financial information or Social Security numbers, but only the 10 questions on the census form.

If there is doubt about a census taker's legitimacy, Groves said residents can call the New York regional census office at 212-971-8810.

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