The U.S. Census Bureau is distributing the 2010 Census to more than 130 million addresses across the nation this week. Mailing back the census form is the easiest way to participate in the 2010 Census, and every household should complete and mail back the form upon receipt.

“The 2010 Census is vitally important to the future of our county. The data gathered will determine local funding for vital local services, such as education, health care and transportation, and it will also play a key role in redistricting,” said Hidalgo County Judge Rene A. Ramirez.

“’I Count, Yo Cuento,’ is the theme that the Hidalgo County Census Complete Count Committee is promoting,” Ramirez said. “The committee has been working diligently on getting the word out that taking 10 minutes to fill out 10 questions will affect the next 10 years,” Judge Ramirez said.

Members of the Hidalgo County Complete Count Committee include representatives from all four precincts, as well as the County Judge’s Office.

Pct. 2 Commissioner Hector “Tito” Palacios said: “Households served by the United States Postal Service will receive their forms in March 2010. Census workers will hand-deliver forms through April 2010 in all other areas. One of the shortest census forms in U.S. Census history, the 2010 Census form asks 10 questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete.”

Census data are used to reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and for the subsequent redistricting of state and local governments. Census data also help to determine how more than $400 billion per year in federal funding is distributed to tribal, state and local governments for services that affect local communities. Specifically, census data are critical in determining locations for new hospitals, improving schools, building new roads, expanding public transportation options and creating new maps for emergency responders.

Census form answers are safe and confidential. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both.