By Rusty Garrett
Times Record • email@example.com
Thursday, April 23, 2009 9:06 AM CDT
The most efficient method of counting the residents of northwestern Arkansas is hiring workers who live there.
Michelle Chavez, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, told area officials Wednesday the federal agency will soon intensify its recruiting of local residents for temporary, part-time positions related to conducting the 2010 national headcount.
“We try to get locals,” Chavez said. “They know their area; they know the habits and culture of people who live there.”
She also said some residents — particularly those from another country or culture — who may be wary of talking to a federal agent they do not know may be more receptive to someone from their neighborhood or home town.
Chavez distributed information on the census — including available part-time, temporary jobs — during a noon meeting attended by about 15 area city, county and school officials. Those interested in applying for the positions should contact the Census Bureau at (866) 861-2010, or by logging on to its Web site, www.2010censusjobs.gov.
Chavez said eligible applicants will be contacted about taking a 30-minute basic skills test, undergoing a background check and training for the positions.
The positions offer good pay, flexible hours and mileage reimbursement, according to Chavez.
Although it is almost a year before the formal census begins, some workers are already on the job. Chavez said current efforts involve updating the mailing list the Census Bureau will use in its initial contact with citizens.
Workers are “on the ground,” Chavez said, checking address data on their handheld, GPS-equipped computers against physical addresses in the neighborhoods. In most cases, she said, the workers, who should be wearing Census Bureau identification tags, will not need to make direct contact with residents. Occasionally, they may need to knock on a door or ask if a building on their route is a residence.
Actual census work, set to begin in March, will begin with a mass mailing of census forms. Chavez said the goal is to have a heavy initial response. In 2000, about 64 percent of the forms mailed out were promptly returned.
The next step involves contacting households directly. Census takers assigned a particular area will knock on doors in an attempt to collect the forms, or information, from those who have not responded. Workers will be instructed to make as many as six trips to a residence in hopes of catching someone home.
Chavez, who is responsible for a 15-county area, and others in the Census Bureau are working now to make sure the public is fully informed about the census, that they understand the importance of participating, and that they are ready to complete their forms when they receive them.
Having an accurate population count is important in allocating government resources. It tells the government how its population looks and where people live, as well as how many of us there are. The information can be used to plan for future growth.
In her role, Chavez encourages the organization of groups — governments, community organizations, schools and others — to work for a more complete and accurate census.
Residents also need to know responding to the census is safe, Chavez said. Census workers are required to safeguard the security of the information. Likewise the bureau does not share its information with any other federal or investigative agency, she said.
Finally, Chavez said residents should be taught responding is easy. The forms being mailed will have only 10 basic questions. They can be filled out quickly and sent back by return mail.
Chavez also invites any group or individual interested in getting involved in the census to contact the Partnership Department at (816) 298-9704 or to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.