Census numbers are used by many agencies to get state and federal funding. Leaders say in a county that has one of the fastest-growing Hispanic populations, they have to get the message out about how important it is for them to be counted.
Dr. David Diaz is a Spanish professor atFayetteville State University. A resident of the states for 35 years, he always participates in the census.
"If I'm in this country, I should do whatever is necessary to help improve the quality of life. I also believe it is my moral obligation as a human being and as a Hispanic," said Diaz.
He tries to teach that lesson outside of the classroom. In 1990, the state's Hispanic population was nearly 77,000. However, an approximate 6.5 percent was not counted.
The population has exploded to an estimated 348,000 in 1999. Members of the Hispanic community fear the undercount could be worse this time around, especially among illegal immigrants.
"They're afraid they're going to be turned over to immigration," said Flora Santor, president of the Hispanic/Latino Center.
The Hispanic/Latino Center has started a public awareness campaign letting people know all their answers on the census would be confidential.
They are urging Hispanics to participate or risk losing thousands of dollars in public support for services in the community.
"They'd lose funding in ESL, English as a Second Language, basic education programs, health care and loss of jobs," said Santor.
Along with private efforts by Hispanic advocacy groups, the city and county have also formed a census 2000 committee.
They will soon begin to identify all difficult-to-reach populations and target those communities.