U.S. Census Bureau recruiting assistant (standing, from left) Mark Robinson and regional technicians Dawn Cooper and Leslie Wright have been training census recruiters at the Stoll Center in Wysox, including (seated, from left) Brian Beauchemin of Lake Winola, Mary Hokkanen of Dushore and Jeffrey Dann of Sayre. Hokkanen is holding a census i-phone, which is used for door-to-door counting.
Photo and story by Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Daily Review)
2020 is a census year, and representatives from the United States Census Bureau have been working in Bradford County to provide training for area recruiters while simultaneously interviewing applicants to serve as enumerators – generally known as census takers. Many positions remain open as the first phase of the national head count gets underway.
U.S. Census regional technician Dawn Cooper stopped into the Jan. 23 meeting of the Bradford County Commissioners to remind those in attendance how important an accurate count is, especially to rural communities. “It has a tremendous impact on the amount of funding an area gets for state and federal programs,” she stated. Cooper was one of three Census employees working with a group of recruiters who will, in turn, provide guidance for the enumerators.
The commissioners welcomed Cooper’s message, noting that Wells Township in northwestern Bradford County had been severely undercounted in the 2010 census, resulting in a loss of thousands of dollars to the municipality over the last decade. The Bradford County Planning Commission works as a partner agency with the Census Bureau.
According to Census Bureau supervisory partnership specialist Steve Shope, “The average person is often not aware of how the census information effects their life.” In addition to shaping legislative districts, the population figures dictate how billions of dollars per year are distributed via programs like WIC and Headstart, as well as federal grants for infrastructure projects. “A lot of people don’t equate pot holes with the census, but for every person that is not counted, that is money taken out of your community.”
Rural areas present unique challenges to census staff, including gaps in communication infrastructure, numerous seasonal homes, and a bit of wariness among isolated rural folks of anybody gathering personal information. In the course of his update for Daily Review readers, Shope addressed each of those concerns.
“People will have three methods to respond this year,” he explained. “They can fill out the form online, call the 800 number, or complete the paper form.”
As the recruiting period winds down in March, the first letters go out by mail to residents with physical addresses to inform them that it is time to be counted. In municipalities with little or no mail delivery, the responsibility falls on the enumerators. “We don’t mail to post office boxes,” Shope related.
Census employees under the Update Leave program have the task of identifying structures where people could be living. “When you get into areas like Bradford County, there are a lot of seasonal properties and cabins,” said Shope. Ninety-five percent of local residents, however, should receive a mailing.
The second and third mailings – to those who have not yet completed a census online or by phone – contain the actual paper forms. If those mailings are ignored, a census employee will be knocking at your door. Others are assigned to counting citizens in healthcare facilities, jails, colleges and other temporary addresses.
“The enumerators will go out to conduct the survey right there with them at their doorstep,” Shope explained. Every census worker will have a laminated badge and will be carrying a black bag with a very large unmistakable census logo on it. “They will be using a census i-phone,” he continued. “On the reverse is a sticker that says ‘Property of the United States Census Bureau.’”
The most important thing people can listen for, Shope suggested, is what a census employee would or would not ask. “They will never ask to enter your house. They will never ask for bank informations, your social security number, or for any kind of payment.” Should that happen, Shope noted, “They should just close the door and alert their authorities.”
Bradford County is one of 28 counties canvassed from an Area Census Office located in State College, which is one of eight in the state. Though the geographical area covered by each office varies, the workers at each will count a similar amount of people.
Dismantling of the Area Offices begins in July, and the final census must, by law, be on the president’s desk as of December 31. In the meantime, there are numerous openings yet to fill for census helpers. “We are now doing the hiring for our upcoming operations in mass,” said Shope. “We offer good pay and flexible hours.”
Candidates often include students, retired individuals, and people with careers who just want to try something different. Readers interested in applying for a job with the United States Census Bureau can log onto www.2020census.gov.
Photo by Rick Hiduk