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Census Bureau seeks workers for 2020 survey at $19.50 an hour in Central Florida

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 12/9/2019 By Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel

The U.S. Census Bureau needs thousands of temporary workers in Central Florida and is offering $19.50 an hour to people willing to canvas neighborhoods door-to-door.

Census Director Steven Dillingham made a recruiting swing Monday through Orange County, making pitches for help at Orlando City Hall and Valencia College.

He said the Census Bureau hopes to hire as many as 500,000 temporary workers nationwide for next spring’s head count. He said the temporary jobs could be perfect first jobs for college students.

The 2020 census will be the first national population update in which respondents are encouraged to answer questions online, but temporary hires will play a critical role in making sure people get counted.

Dillingham said most temps will be used to visits to households that don’t respond to questionnaires by mail, phone or online.

“We have found especially over the last two decades or so people are less willing to answer surveys,” he said.

Census-takers are trained, Dillingham said, to overcome reticence with facts: the census is a constitutionally required responsibility that will help the community pay for infrastructure, services, hospitals and schools.

The Census Bureau also hires office staff and supervisors, who are typically paid a higher hourly wage than door-to-door troops.

“They’re great jobs,” he said, noting some census workers sign on decade after decade.

Dillingham said he’s met two people who will be working their seventh decennial head count next year.

Job-seekers can apply at by clicking on the " jobs" tab.

To be eligible to work for the Census Bureau, an applicant must:

Be at least 18 years old.

Have a valid Social Security number.

Be a U.S. citizen, although there are exceptions.

Have a valid email address.

Complete an application and answer assessment questions. While some questions are available in Spanish, an English proficiency test also may be required.

Be registered with the Selective Service System or have a qualifying exemption, if you are a male born after Dec. 31, 1959.

Pass a census-performed criminal background check and a review of criminal records, including fingerprinting.

Commit to completing census training.

Be available to work flexible hours, which can include days, evenings, and/or weekends.

Most census jobs also require a valid drivers license and access to a vehicle, unless public transportation is readily available, plus access to a computer with internet and an email account.

An October report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the bureau is behind in its hiring goals for the once-a-decade, constitutionally-required count of the U.S. population.

Dillingham, who was making his first visit to Florida as census director, acknowledged the challenge of hiring in a tight labor market.

Unemployment was measured at 2.7% in October for the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford statistical area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Data from the 2020 census will help determine where billions in federal aid is distributed and whether Florida will add congressional seats and political clout.

The count kicks off in January in a remote area of Alaska while the rest of the nation takes part starting in the spring.

He said the census will be easier to complete this year than any time in the past.

“You can now complete the census anytime and from anywhere," he said. "You can do it on paper, you can do it on the Internet, you can do it by telephone.”

Dillingham expects census workers in Florida to be busiest in May, June and July.

“We want people to get online now,” he said.

Most of the hiring will be done in the first quarter of next year.

Dillingham said citizenship is generally required for federal employment, as census jobs are defined, but there can be exceptions.

“If we can’t find people with the right language skills, we can hire non-citizens,” he said.

Low-income and minority communities are traditionally among the hardest to count, leaving them at risk of losing funding and political representation as some are wary about the government asking questions.

Fewer than seven in 10 householders plan to take part in the census, according to a report released in January by the Census Bureau.

Dillingham said the nation’s increasing diversity poses challenges, too.

“I know Florida has a very diverse population,” Dillingham said. “We want to make sure that we reach all those communities and that’s why we want to reach those communities for our hiring, too.”

Central Florida has several hard-to-count areas, which will have specially tailored messages for many of those communities.

Marilyn Stephens, assistant census manager for the Southeastern U.S., including Florida, said local efforts in Central Florida are working to ensure everyone is counted here.

She said the recruiting efforts include strategies for overcoming language, literacy and cultural barriers.

“We need Creole speakers,” she said of a language spoken in Orange County’s Haitian communities.

Stephens also said Florida’s burgeoning Puerto Rican population is “all in” for the census, which can determine how much in federal money the region gets for roads and early learning programs such as Head Start. or 407-650-6361


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