ST. GEORGE — The United States Census Bureau has given its census takers a raise.
Beginning this month, the bureau has raised its hourly pay for census takers to $16 to $20 per hour. In Utah, this means a $3 per hour raise for temporary census workers. The pay raise for Washington County census takers went from $13.50 per hour to $16 plus reimbursement for work-related mileage and expenses where applicable.
Although the process to train and hire census takers to go door-to-door to assist in filling out the documents begins at the end of the month, the bureau will promptly begin to hire positions that will continue into January.
Paid training will be conducted between March and April. When trained census takers hit the ground running May through July, they will provide a vital service to ensure Congressional representation and prevent underfunding of governmental grants.
The benefits of being a census taker include flexible schedules depending on an applicant’s availability, competitive pay, paid training and weekly paychecks.
Unlike the 2010 census takers who were burdened with binders and paperwork out in the field, next year’s workforce will travel lightly, carrying only a backpack and mobile device to assist people in answering the questionnaire.
People are urged to apply immediately because the bureau plans to begin its selection process by the end of the month.
The census, taken every 10 years, is liked to population growth, which is especially relevant to Washington County which has experienced phenomenal growth during the past five years, said Corals Ruiz Jimenez, U.S. Census Bureau media representative for Utah.
“The increase to the pay was to attract more people to apply for the positions,” Jimenez said.
An accurate count of a community’s population and its demographics is critical to receiving a host of benefits based on the data collected, she said.
“The census is the backbone for more than 200 federal programs,” Jimenez said. “Census data is not only important for representation in Congress, but it is used where federal funding should go.”
Accurate population figures also impact business growth.
“Businesses want to know how St. George has grown during the past five or 10 years,” Jimenez said. “Is it feasible to open something like a Trader Joes or put up a new antenna for my television station.”
The census also drills down on demographics such as income and age of household occupants.
“The census is so important to the economic and social development of a city,” Jimenez said. “It talks about the development of our county, our community, our towns. We want everyone to get their fair share of federal funds, and everything comes down to census data.”
Throughout the state, census numbers are used for political redistricting and school district boundaries.
Because St. George has experienced huge growth, Jimenez added, it is important to get an accurate count during next year’s census.
“We are talking about funding for highways, for police stations, hospitals, grocery stores, schools, everything that impacts a community,” Jimenez said. “If we have an undercount, it will affect all communities until the next census in 2030 or beyond.”
While some people are hesitant to take the census because of privacy concerns, Jimenez said there is no need to worry.
“People should not be concerned,” she said. “People give out more information on Facebook and Twitter than on the census.”
The census focuses on questions such as the number of people in the household, and their race, gender and marital status to determine population demographics.
“There are two laws that protect people who fill out the census questionnaire,” Jimenez said. “One says that census employees take an oath for life not to share any information with anyone.”
If employees break that oath by sharing personal information with anyone, including other federal government agencies, they can face a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in federal prison.
“I don’t have that amount of money, and on top of that, I don’t have five years to lose going to prison,” Jimenez said. “The census does not communicate with the FBI, the CIA, ICE or any other immigration agency.”
Another law that offers personal information protection states that specific data collected cannot be released until 72 years after the census is completed.
“This is an opportunity for people to be part of history and contribute to their community,” Jimenez said.
A census taker will have an official ID badge with their name, expiration date and the U.S. Department of Commerce logo. They will also have a “your answers are confidential information sheet,” form D-1. They may be carrying a black canvass bag with the Department of Commerce logo and will be able to provide their supervisor’s name and contact information as well as to the local census office to provide verification of identity.
Census takers will never ask to enter someone’s home or ask for a social security number, but they may attempt three visits at different times of the day in an effort to interview a resident of the home.
Open census taker positions can be browsed on the U.S. Census Bureau website.
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