By: Allison Kauffman
Every person in the United States will be counted by census workers in 2020. It’s hard to believe it is time once again for another census. I remember volunteers going around our neighborhood in 2010, gathering census data from some of our neighbors who forgot to send in their census forms. I remember thinking, “Wow, they will come find you if you don’t send it in.” But then I learned the reasons for that. The data they collect is important for a number of reasons, but mainly to determine how much federal funding can be allocated to certain areas.
Rebecca Armstrong of Danville is a Recruitment Specialist with the United States Census Bureau and was a guest presenter January 24 at RiverWoods Senior Living Community. Rebecca said census numbers determine all the support we get in our community. They are the population count used for federal funding, state funding and for grant funding. That funding can support elder care, school lunches, road repair, and more. The census can also impact congressional districting. Armstrong said, “Anything that happens in our communities relies on those census numbers. When they are giving money, they want to know what the size of the community is that the money will support.”
The first census happened in 1790, when the government wanted to know how many people were in the country. It was then written into the constitution that every 10 years, the government would do census research to determine how many people are here and where they are located. Historically, that information is incredibly useful and is also used in genealogical research. Rebecca explained, “We want to make sure the census goes well so the historical record is accurate.”
Rebecca said they are now hiring and census jobs pay $17.50 an hour. You can do the work on your own schedule and you get paid for mileage as well. There are no educational requirements for census workers and you can work any hours you want, up to 40 hours weekly. There is an online job application that takes about 30 minutes to fill out. That makes you eligible for all the census jobs. Some of the jobs are less demanding than others. Starting in March, group quarter counters will be needed. That is when census workers are going to come around to retirement communities and group homes and work with the institution to make sure that all of the people living there are completing their census form.
Another census job is to deliver to places where the post office doesn’t go. People are going to have to go drop off census material at those locations, so that job involves driving and also going up to the door to deliver materials.
There is also a census follow-up job. Rebecca says 65 percent of people fill out the census the way they are supposed to. However, 35 percent of people forget about it. Then workers have to go around door to door telling people this is required by the government and do it with them at their door. Rebecca says you don’t go in the home, but usually stand on the front steps or porch to help them answer the list of census questions. There are 9 questions that take only about 5 minutes to fill in.
Census workers will ask if you rent or own, your age, gender and what are the relationships between the people living in the home. They will never ask for financial information, social security number or banking information.
This year is the first year that you can respond to the census by telephone or online. Normally, since 1790, everything has been done on paper. This year they are trying out two new response methods. You will receive the regular paper census form in the mail. You can fill it out and mail it in, or you can call a number on the paper to do it, or visit a website to provide your information. The hope is that having three different ways to respond will raise the personal response rate from 65 to 85 percent.
Over 500,000 census jobs are available across the country. It’s the largest government hiring outside of war time. Rebecca said, “Think about how many human beings are in the United States and every one of them needs to be counted. It’s a huge project.”
According to the Population Reference Bureau (prb.org), here are the top six reasons an accurate census is critical.
- Apportionment- State population counts from the census are used to reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. This means no state has permanent claim to their current number of House seats. State population counts determine how the 435 seats are split across the 50 states
- Redistricting- State and local officials use census results to help redraw congressional, state and local district boundaries to contain equal number of people. If the populations in the districts are equal, this ensures each person’s voting power is equivalent. The Census Bureau publishes redistricting data no later than March 31, 2021
- Funding for states and local communities- For example, data from the census was used to distribute more than $675-billion in federal funds for health, education, housing and infrastructure programs during Fiscal Year 2015. This also helps ensure funding is equally distributed for programs such as Medicaid, highway planning, construction, special education grants, the National School Lunch Program and Head Start.
- Planning- Census data helps determine the need for new roads, hospitals, schools and other public sector projects. Businesses also use the date as a source of information about the population’s changing needs.
- Emergency response- First responders use census data to help identify where and how much help is needed in particular areas in cases of emergency.
- Federal survey base information- Census data can provide a population base for federal surveys.
So for these reasons, the 2020 Census is just as important as it has been for many decades before. With new and easy ways to provide your information, you can help make the census a successful one. And, if you are interested in part-time census opportunities visit 2020census.gov or pa.gov/census to learn more.