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Latino Leaders Plan to Make Census 2000 Count

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MONCURE — North Carolina's population has exploded since the last census was taken in 1990. The Latino population alone has grown by 94 percent.

The Latino community wants to be certain its voice is heard whenCensus 2000is taken. About 200 Latino leaders are meeting in Moncure this weekend to plan a statewide strategy for making sure every member of their community is counted.

"If you don't have a reliable count, then help from the federal government in the form of dollars, schools, transportation, services is going to be missing," says Nolo Martinez, director of N.C. Latino Affairs.

North Carolina lost more than $60 million due to undercounting in the last census. Over the next year, Latino leaders will work within their neighborhoods to emphasize the importance of an accurate count.

Getting an accurate count is a challenge with the growing number of migrant workers, who may be reluctant to give personal information to the government.

"People need to be reassured, and that's one thing we're going to be teaching our folks is that the information that is taken by the census is completely confidential. It is not even shared from agency to agency," says census organizer Edna Campos.

Leaders do not just want Latinos to answer the census survey. They are also encouraging them to work for the census, going door to door to track numbers in Latino communities.

With millions of dollars in potential funding at stake, they want to be sure our state's skyrocketing Latino population is accounted for.

The 2000 census also has a political impact on the Latino community. The numbers will be used to draw political districts for the U.S. Congress.

The numbers show the Hispanic population in North Carolina has nearly doubled over the last seven years. There are about 150,000 living in the state, but many Hispanic leaders think that number is even higher.

Wake County has the second highest Hispanic growth rate in the country and North Carolina ranks behind Arkansas and Nevada as having the largest Hispanic growth rate in the nation.