Local workers will be needed for 2020 Census

Kimberly Burgess, a partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, recently reminded Pershing County leaders of the upcoming Census Day on April 1, 2020. The U.S. Constitution mandates the population count for the entire nation be taken every 10 years since 1790. 

The Census Bureau will send a survey to all households or, for the first time, the survey can be completed online or by phone. Those who don’t respond by April could be visited by a census worker. Personal information will remain confidential for 72 years according to the Census Bureau and no information is shared with law enforcement or immigration authorities. Questions include the name, age, sex, race, ethnicity but not the citizenship of each household member.

About half a million temporary, full or part time workers have or will be trained by the Census Bureau for the national head count that starts in January. Jobs include door knockers, census office workers and outreach specialists like Burgess who work with local community groups.

Burgess emphasized the importance of an accurate census to ensure fair congressional representation and a fair share of federal funds for schools, roads and other local services.

“A few things I like to focus on in regards to why it’s important are power and money,” she said. “Power in the sense of political representation...After the 2010 census, Nevada gained a seat in the House of Representatives. It’s possible to maintain that but you can always lose or gain.”

As for federal funds, Burgess said $675 billion is divided up annually among states and local jurisdictions based on population counts. In Fiscal Year 2016, Nevada was paid about $6.2 billion in federal funding for various programs, she said. 

Although April 1, 2020 is the “action day,” Burgess said residents will, for the first time, have the “self response” option starting on March 12, 2020.

“One of the things that’s very different about this census is the option to respond online,” she said. “You don’t have to respond online but that is available.”

Burgess said most people will receive invitations to respond to the census by mail. Those who receive their mail via a post office box, and not to a physical address, will be visited by census workers delivering census survey packets to their physical addresses.

“What we’re doing right now is what we call address canvassing. That is our first field operation for the census and started a couple of weeks ago in various parts of the country and the state,” she said. “Those people verifying those addresses to make sure there’s an accurate address list when it comes time to deliver the packets. Also, if people don’t self-respond, we will have an accurate address list in order to do that non-response follow up piece.”

Since mail is not delivered directly to Lovelock residents, who must pay for post office boxes to receive their mail, census workers will personally deliver census packets to all city addresses. Census packets will also be hand-delivered to rural residents without direct mail delivery.

“Are you aware that all the City of Lovelock has P.O. boxes?” Commissioner Carol Shank asked. “And we have other outlying places. We don’t have that many places that receive mail directly.”

As for who will deliver the census packets in town and to remote areas of the county, a number of local field representatives have been or will be hired by the Census Bureau, Burgess said.

“We have been recruiting for field representatives. It’s an ongoing operation and we try to hire local,” she said. “We have a rolling recruitment from now until the springtime for various field positions. Right now, we have people doing the address canvassing. In the springtime, in March, is when we’ll have the next wave of people.”

Burgess said the census is not a one-size-fits-all process and that each community will have unique challenges and solutions to reach the goal of a complete and accurate population count.

Instead of multiple committees, Burgess recommended that one diverse group of community leaders could be the best for addressing the challenges of populations “that may be hard to count” such as migrant workers, motel residents, the homeless, backcountry residents or others.

Shank suggested the Frontier Community Coalition could be the most appropriate group for the census with leaders from throughout the community who regularly attend the monthly meetings. 

“We have a group called Frontier Community Coalition. They have representatives from the hospital, the school district, the county, the city, the sheriff’s department. They gather everybody together,” Shank said. “I’m thinking they could put that on their agenda regularly and they could discuss where do we have needs and issues. You could come to their meetings as well. If you like, I will be happy to talk to the director but I think that’s something that would fit really well.”

Burgess said about 25 percent of local residents “are likely not to respond to the census” based on the 2010 Census response rates and the “American Community Survey” supplemental data.

The 2020 census process doesn’t end on April 1, Burgess said. Census workers will be reaching out with personal visits to households that failed to participate in the head count.

“The standard operation of non-response follow ups, the ‘door knockers’ as people refer to the census, is going to start in May and go through July,” she said. “Then, of course, we have to have that final count to the President on December 31, 2020.”

Local census workers will be paid from $15 to $16.50 per hour and mileage is reimbursed. Burgess did not know how many people will be hired temporarily for the local census office.

Those interested in a census job can generate their online profile at recruitment.2020 census.gov or call 1-855-562-2020, option 3 for more information about jobs in the area.