MORRO BAY — There are a lot of curveballs being thrown at the 2020 U.S. Census and the government agency responsible is handling each, in turn, said a media representative for the Bureau’s Los Angeles Region on Tuesday.
To start with, their branch’s service area includes not only all of California but Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon
Unknowns which will affect the process include just how likely Americans will be to want a temporary census job next year. Low unemployment makes booking employees to help, “count everyone once, only once and in the right place,” a little more difficult. Which is why they’re putting out the call now, more than a year ahead of the actual census period starting April 2020.
“We’d like to keep people as close to home as possible,” media specialist Kathleen Woodruff said, noting that the pay in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties is the same, $20 per hour for most workers, “You’re more likely to know people in your own neighborhood and people will be more likely to answer if they know each other as well.”
She added that they expect to open local Area Census Offices (ACO) in June of this year, with the closest to Atascadero being in Camarillo.
“Applicants applying now will likely hear back by this Spring, around March,” she said. “However, they will still be eligible to be brought on to the 2020 Census as we continue to ramp up.”
To be eligible applicants must be able to swear a lifelong oath to protect the data they’ll be privy to, which also means passing a criminal background check clear of felonies. Workers must also be U.S. Citizens.
This will be the first time respondents can go online to volunteer to answer questions for the census before they’re contacted, she adds, which is expected to boost turnout.
“This is important stuff, it’s your chance not only to stand up and be counted but the information is used to influence funding for everything from the federal level,” she said, listing education, roads, and infrastructure among other public concerns.
While Woodruff said that she and colleagues were excited that 2020 would be a chance to count the most people yet, one remaining factor could seriously change public perception of the survey and possibly skew response rates downward.
With 10 standard questions already determined, an 11th which the Commerce Department leadership opted to place under the Trump Administration, is headed to the Supreme Court.
The question would ask residents to reveal their citizenship status.
The State of New York has spearheaded a lawsuit against the addition with a coalition of states joining. He suit was found to have merit in lower court rulings, but the Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments reviewing that decision in April this year.
The court would usually wait until summer for such procedures but time is of the essence as the Census Bureau needs to start printing forms by June if they’re going to begin mailings on time.
The not knowing might also influence recruitment efforts if temporary census workers see their role change from knocking on doors to help their neighbors be counted for school and road funding, to being seen to ask if everyone’s here legally.
Whatever the outcome of that drama on the national stage, the Bureau does have some other resources to call on for ongoing population and income estimates regionally. Data is collected year-round with various surveys through the period between national census.
The information they’ve generated about Atascadero since 2010, for example, benchmarks 2017: with a population of 30,418; median household income of $72,240; 94.7 percent of the population with high school diplomas; 1,847 veterans; and 88.2 percent of homes with broadband internet connections.
Information on finding a temporary full or part-time job with next year’s census is available now at 2020census.gov/jobs.