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Higher Response Rate Aids Census

September 27, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ With Congress in the midst of budget negotiations, the Census Bureau announced it had a $305 million surplus in large part because more people than expected mailed back a form, director Kenneth Prewitt said Wednesday.

In a letter to House and Senate overseers, Prewitt reported that the savings resulted from ″...higher than expected mailback response rates″ for Census 2000, and ″...better than expected quality of the field management team in the 520 local offices.″

Of 120 million forms mailed, 67 percent were returned, the Census Bureau has said, beating an expected 61 percent response rate. That meant fewer non-responding households to for census-takers to track down _ the most expensive part of the operation.

Census officials hope news of the surplus plays well with congressional appropriators. President Clinton requested $719 million for the Census Bureau next fiscal year, which starts Sunday.

Chip Walker, spokesman for Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Government Reform census subcommittee, said ``the intent is to allow the bureau to tack on″ about $20 million for new programs and plans to renovate agency headquarters. A House-passed version currently allots $667 million.

While echoing Prewitt’s praise of the public, Walker also said ``However it will not be acceptable for there to be large surplus if we have a large undercount.″

The $305 million was part of more than $4.4 billion in emergency appropriations Congress authorized for the Census Bureau earlier this year, to avoid counting it against spending limits.

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