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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024

CENSUS–Census Bureau Seeks Thousands of Temps

County’s Regional Agency Distributing $383,000 for Informational Campaign

The business of counting heads is rolling into high gear at the U.S. Census Bureau’s San Diego office.

While the decennial counting of the nation’s households won’t officially commence for another month, federal officials are scurrying to test and hire between 2,500 to 5,000 temporary employees to help with the task.

King Bishop, manager for the San Diego office, said he won’t know exactly how many employees he’ll need until late March or April, but he’s anticipating each of the county’s five offices will need between 500 to 1,000 workers.

Besides San Diego, the Census Bureau, a division of the federal Department of Commerce, has offices in Chula Vista, Spring Valley, Escondido and Vista.

The real counting begins after form letters, mailed to every residence in the county in March, begin returning to Census Bureau offices.

“If we haven’t heard from them by the first week of April, that’s when we start going out, knocking on doors to get the information,” Bishop said.

To accomplish the task, offices need not only clerks, but enumerators, or interviewers, to fill out the forms for those residents who haven’t mailed them back.

Full-, Part-Time Jobs

The full-time and part-time jobs pay between $9 to $12 an hour. Part-timers are able to arrange flexible schedules that may include working as few as three days a week, Bishop said.

To qualify for the jobs, applicants should be legal citizens, at least 18 years old, and possess basic reading and writing skills that will be verified by a test.

Government and community officials are making a concerted effort to publicize the census and do a more accurate count locally and statewide than was done 10 years ago.

In 1990, the county’s official population was about 2.5 million, but follow-up studies determined 2 percent of the population wasn’t counted, according to Karen Lamphere, senior regional planner for the San Diego Association of Governments (Sandag).

“San Diego had the second highest undercount in the state, just behind Los Angeles,” Lamphere said.

Multiple Uses

That undercount cost the county and its 18 cities an estimated $94 million over 10 years. The figure was tabulated from the 63,000 people not counted in 1990, multiplied by an average of $150 per person in federal funds allocated annually, times 10 years, Lamphere said.

The data collected from the census is used to determine the amount of federal funds allocated to a whole range of public services provided by federal, state and local governments, everything from streets and road improvements to funding for social programs geared to seniors and children, Bishop said.

The census is also required by the U.S. Constitution as the method for determining the fair apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. In the last census, California, the most populated state in the nation, picked up seven new seats to bring its total to 52 congressional representatives.

While the numbers are essential to government budgeting and planning, the census is also used extensively by corporations and businesses, Bishop said.

“The information is used by corporations when they need to know the size of the labor pool in a particular area, and when they are deciding whether to expand to an area,” he said.

Businesses also use the data to target specific areas for certain products and services and to determine where a company can take best advantage of its advertising or direct-mail campaigns.

As a way to improve the census count this year, California is making a big push to get the word out and recently allocated $5 million for an outreach program.

Outreach Programs

Sandag, the regional planning agency for the county and its 18 cities, received about $383,000 for the outreach program, which was distributed to 24 community organizations.

Tania Farley, a community educator with the Union of Pan Asian Communities, said the $25,000 her organization received from the state will be used to hire additional staffers to assist in the project.

A particular effort this year is to get a better count on some of the region’s newest immigrants, including Laotians, Hmong and Cambodians who were missed in the last census, Farley said.

Although the Census Bureau has spent “billions of dollars” for a national media campaign to publicize the importance of the census, Farley said she’s seen very little evidence of this locally.

Except for small print ads appearing in four Asian community papers, she hasn’t seen any advertising in the local media.


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