More census workers needed in Ky.

bestep@herald-leader.comJanuary 25, 2010 

  • Interested in a job?

    To apply for a job with the U.S. Census Bureau, call 1-866-861-2010, go to http://2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs, or visit a local census office. There are offices in Lexington, Louisville, Ashland, Somerset, Bowling Green, Hopkinsville, and Covington.

There will be thousands of jobs available in Kentucky helping conduct the 2010 U.S. Census, but federal officials are having a harder time than expected recruiting people in some areas.

The census needs to hire 10,000 to 11,000 temporary workers to do the counting in Kentucky, said Wayne Hatcher, census director for a five-state region that includes Kentucky.

With the economy weak, there have been a good number of applicants for census jobs in some areas. But in others, particularly parts of southern and Eastern Kentucky, there haven't been as many applicants as the agency wanted to see by now, officials said.

The census needs to line up four or five applicants for each job so there will be enough people available if some get other jobs, drop out of the process or don't qualify, said Hatcher, whose office is in Charlotte, N.C.

"We're not where we'd like to be in our recruiting effort," Hatcher said Friday during a trip to Kentucky.

The same is true in Appalachian areas of nearby states, he said.

Census officials said that could be because people on various forms of public assistance are concerned that taking a temporary job with the census will hurt their benefits. But Hatcher said that's not true.

There are agreements in place under which people who get food stamps or housing assistance, for instance, can work for the census and not lose public assistance, he said.

Some people also might be concerned that taking a census job will hurt their unemployment benefits, managers at district census offices in Kentucky said.

However, Lanny Brannock, communications officer for the state's Office of Employment and Training, said the vast majority of people receiving unemployment benefits may take census jobs without losing those benefits.

Census officials are working to boost recruiting through advertising and other methods.

The census will hire office workers and supervisors, but most of the jobs will be for people to go door-to-door gathering information from those who didn't respond to questionnaires that will be mailed in March, Hatcher said.

Ideally, the census tries to hire people to work in their own neighborhoods, Hatcher said.

The peak workload will be late April to early July. The jobs will last a few weeks to a few months. Some are full-time, but many will be part-time.

The starting pay for door-to-door workers varies around the state, based on a study of prevailing wage levels. In southern and Eastern Kentucky, for instance, it is $10.75 an hour, while it's $13.75 in Lexington and $15 in Louisville, according to the census Web site.

Workers also will be reimbursed for mileage.

Applicants must be older than 18, complete a written test, undergo a background check and have access to a vehicle.

In a year when there has been some anti-census sentiment in the nation, Hatcher stressed the importance of responding to the inquiry.

Information from the census is used not only in political redistricting, but as a guide in allocating hundreds of billions in federal aid for roadwork, health care, education and other programs, Hatcher said.

And, he said, the information is confidential. The Census Bureau turns the information into statistical reports, and does not disclose individual information to police, the Internal Revenue Service or other agencies, Hatcher said.

"People can take to the bank that we're going to keep the information we get confidential," he said.

He also pointed out that the census form does not include a question on citizenship status. The job of the census is to count every resident in the country, he said.

The census made news in Kentucky last year for an unusual reason — the death of a part-time worker whose body was found in September near a secluded hillside cemetery in Clay County. William E. Sparkman Jr., 51, a surveyor for the census, had a rope around his neck that was tied to a tree.

Police concluded Sparkman, of Laurel County, asphyxiated himself but tried to make it look as if he had been killed in an attempt to preserve life-insurance payments to his son and another man.

The Census Bureau suspended operations in Clay County for several weeks out of concern for workers' safety.

However, the agency resumed normal operations there after police concluded that Sparkman did not die as a result of foul play.

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