WORKING THE CENSUS

2020 census employment recruiter Marti Alvarez stands in an aisle at Roy’s General Store on Thursday. Alvarez was there for a recruitment event, speaking with store customers about working for the U.S. Census Bureau during the 2020 census.

TRAVERSE CITY — Recruitment of temporary workers for the 2020 census is continuing, even as the time people will receive invitations to respond nears.

The Traverse City Area Census Office serves 52 counties — essentially everything north of Grand Rapids, including the Upper Peninsula — and about 20,000 enumerators are needed throughout that region, office Manager John Walker said.

“Enumerators are the people that are feet-on-the-ground, if you will,” he said. “(When households don’t self-respond to the census), we need the people to be going out into the communities and knocking on doors and asking people the information we need.”

Census data is used multiple ways, but is reported only in statistical format as individual census records are, by law, confidential for 72 years. The census is taken every 10 years — a requirement outlined in the U.S. Constitution — and counts everyone residing in the 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Island Areas of the U.S.

What’s at stake includes seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, distribution of about $675 billion per year of federal funds and the boundaries of legislative districts from the federal level down to the local level.

Roughly 13,000 enumerators have been hired thus far, but that still leaves another 7,000 or so job openings, Walker said.

Hourly pay rates for census takers range from $14 to $25, depending on where the applicant lives, according to the 2020 census website. Time spent in training is paid and census takers also receive reimbursement for work-related mileage and expenses, where applicable, the website states.

“The Census Bureau makes every effort to hire locally so census takers are familiar with the neighborhoods they are assigned to work,” a Jan. 7 Census Bureau press release states.

As of Feb. 24, Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties were two of 11 counties in the state that had reached or exceeded census recruitment goals, according to Census Bureau data. The data set is updated on Mondays and this week’s was unavailable at presstime.

Grand Traverse County was at 106.5 percent of its goal and Leelanau County at 111.4 percent, the data set showed. Antrim County was at 61.2 percent of its goal, Kalkaska County at 65.9 percent and Benzie County at 60 percent.

Walker said he doesn’t anticipate any challenges, even if they don’t meet recruitment goals.

Recruiters from the area census office are continuing to hold recruitment events at various venues throughout the region.

The Traverse Area District Library has been hosting recruiters periodically, TADL Director Michele Howard said. Libraries are integral parts of communities that are trusted by their members — something which allows libraries to provide a wide range of citizens with accurate information, she said.

“The census is so important to funding so many of our regional assets and census workers are essential to that,” Howard said.

Recruiters also have been stationed at the Grand Traverse Pie Company, owner Mike Busley said.

“We like to do community service support things when we can, and (hosting recruiters) sounded like a good way to do that,” Busley said. “Ultimately, a good count would be good for the community.”

Census job qualifications listed on the 2020 census website include being at least 18; having a valid Social Security number; and passing a Census Bureau-performed background check and review of criminal records, including fingerprinting.

Most jobs require employees to have a vehicle and valid driver’s license and have access to a computer with internet and email account to complete training, the website states.

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