National Census Day is less than 24 hours away and the Census Bureau is reporting a significantly lower return rate in Texas than any other state and is encouraging residents to mail their census forms by Thursday's deadline.

"We're concerned about the relatively low response from parts of Texas," Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau, said in a statement. "Every household that fails to send back their census form by mail must be visited by a census taker starting in May - at a significant taxpayer cost. The easiest and best way to be counted in the census is to fill out and return your form by mail."

The national average participation rate is listed at 46 percent on the census Web site, 2010.census.gov. Several Texas cities have rates below 30 percent, including Brownsville, 25 percent, and Laredo, 27 percent.

Erath County weighed in with a participation rate of 43 percent, four percent above the state average but three percent below the national average.

According to the 2010 Census Web site, the census assists communities in receiving federal funds for projects including hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, public works projects and emergency services.

Individuals not returning census forms by Thursday will be visited by census takers over the following three months. Mailing in forms will prevent census takers from knocking on doors and save federal funds.

An estimated $85 million in federal funds is expected to be saved for each percentage point increase in mail response from residents, a release on the Web site stated.

According to www.census.gov, Title 13, United States Code, Sections 141 and 193, census response is mandatory. People who do not respond can face fines. 

The U.S. Census Bureau can only use collected data for statistical purposes, and ensures that your confidentiality is protected. Title 13 requires the Census Bureau to keep all information about you and all other respondents strictly confidential. Any Census Bureau employee who violates these provisions is subject to a fine of up to $250,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years.