POTSDAM — Safe, private and now online, representatives of the U.S. Census Bureau are beginning to reach out to the public to inform them about what to expect in March when they begin counting the nation’s population.
Chris Iven, a partnership specialist for Central New York for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, gave the Potsdam Town Board an approximately 20-minute presentation Tuesday night, a period of brevity in an evening of lengthy presentations.
Mr. Iven stressed the importance of the census, saying that while the goal is to count everybody once and in the right place, there are challenges, which is why the outreach is beginning so early.
“We‘re ahead of the curve,” he said. “Anytime you try to count everyone, any time you try to get everyone to do anything it’s going to be tough.“
But for 2020, he said the Census Bureau was making it easier. Instead of sending out the paper form as previously done, a mailer will be sent to addresses, which will not have the resident’s name, and will provide a 10-digit code to use online to fill out the 10-question form.
“We’re doing that because it’s safe, it’s easy, people are comfortable doing that, it’s the cheapest way of collecting information and it’s high-quality information,” Mr. Iven said. “If they don’t do that, they can also call the phone number, also new in 2020.”
If they don’t respond either of those two ways, they will first get a couple of letters reminding them, followed by the form that has been distributed previously. If residents fail to fill out that form, they will get a knock on the door from a census representative seeking the answers to the 10 questions.
“It will go through the end of July into August, when we are finishing up all those houses that didn‘t respond,” Mr. Iven said. “It is due to the president by the end of 2020 and it is due to the state by the end of March 2021.“
For those without internet access, Mr. Iven said libraries will be an important resource.
He said getting everyone counted “goes right to the heart of our democracy” and ensures that every congressional district is fairly represented and that once the characteristics of a community can be determined, it could lead to federal funding. He said $675 billion gets distributed each year based on where people live.
Mr. Iven said the census is safe and while there are personal questions asked, it is 100 percent private and protected under the law.
“We need to make sure people understand that when a census worker comes and knocks on their door, they’re not going to count how many guns they have or how many pets they have or the condition of their animals,” Mr. Iven said. “That’s not our job, we’re not trained for that. Census workers only count people and we only release statistics.”
At the crux of collecting the information is having people living in those communities working for the Census Bureau, he said, and that the “very flexible jobs” range from recruiting assistants, census field supervisors, enumerators, clerical support and office operations supervisor, starting at $17 an hour with supervisors being paid more.
“We want to hire your local people because it raises the profile of the census,” Mr. Iven said. “That’s good, but your local people know your community, know the cultural differences in different neighborhoods.”
Those jobs are available at 2020census.gov/jobs
For more information about the 2020 census, visit 2020census.gov