Op-Ed

How to serve your country? Get a job with the 2020 Census

George Washington famously wrote to a disgruntled subordinate in 1775: “Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.” The officer, whose epaulets were ruffled because he’d been passed over for promotion, apparently ignored his commander’s advice. His name was Benedict Arnold.

Nearly 250 years later the opportunities for national service, particularly in the absence of military conscription, are limited. Citizens can vote, but many choose not to. Or, once every 10 years, they can take their place in history by working on the decennial U.S. Census. The constitutionally-mandated national census has taken place every 10 years since 1790.

The results of the 2020 Census will help determine Kentucky’s representation in Congress and the state legislature. Moreover, it will determine how $675 billion of public funds are spent federally and given in grants and support to states and local communities to support schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, economic development, job training, financial assistance, disaster relief, and more.

Oct. 22 marks the National Day of 2020 Census Recruiting to hold informational events throughout the country to answer questions about 2020 Census jobs and the hiring process. The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting 2.7 million people. About a half million of those will be going door-to-door to personally call on homes whose residents haven’t responded to the census forms they receive in the mail.

The Lexington Area Census Office, which will fully stand up later this year, has responsibility for ensuring that every citizen in the eastern half of Kentucky, an area covering roughly 20 million square miles, is counted – only once and in the right place. That includes operations to cover people in campus housing, homeless shelters, nursing homes, marinas, military barracks, even traveling carnivals if any happen to wander through our area.

The 2020 Census marks the first time that citizens will have the options of responding by mail, by phone or online. Hopefully that will improve response rates. Sadly though, the eastern half of Kentucky traditionally has one of the poorest Census response rates in the country. As a result, we will be hiring.

The actual number has yet to be determined, but we are already recruiting a pool of applicants that now numbers more than 5,000 who will work in the eastern, northern and parts of central Kentucky, to include Fayette and surrounding counties. And that won’t be enough because some will drop out of the process, so we need to recruit multiple applicants for each job offer. In addition to census takers, we’ll be hiring their supervisors as well as a large administrative staff for our central office. We’re especially looking for people who are fluent in languages other than English spoken within some communities.

Application is easy. Just go to the 2020census.gov/jobs to review eligibility requirements and submit an online application. And be patient. It may be several months before applicants are contacted. Pay varies by location, and rates are available by county on the website.

We’ll begin hiring for some positions later this fall, but the bulk of those selected will begin working next spring. We encourage people to apply now because the selection process and background checks for such a large work force take time.

Who are some of the people we’re recruiting?

•Students (age 18 and over) seeking a summer job to gain communication experience and add to their professional resumes;

•Retirees looking to supplement their pensions by re-entering the job force;

•Teachers on summer break;

•People looking for a second job to pick up some extra cash;

•Seasonal workers between holidays;

Working for the 2020 Census is not just a temporary job. It is a unique and remarkable opportunity to serve your nation and your community in a way that will help for decades to come. Pass it up and you’ll have to wait another 10 years for the next chance.

John M. Shotwell is the manager of the Lexington Area Census Office. He can be reached at john.m.shotwell@2020census.gov.

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