Stakes Are High For County In 2020 Census

By: 
Judy Kramer
County Reporter
The founders of the U.S. Constitution required that a census be taken once a decade to count every person living in the newly created United States of America, and to use that count to determine representation in Congress. They accomplished this goal with the first census in 1790. The 24th census will be taken in 2020, and Benton County’s Presiding Commissioner, Steve Daleske, is stressing the importance of everyone participating.
“On the bigger (Congressional) level, the number of persons in a state determine not only the number of Congressional seats, but also the amount of federal funds that are distributed to support housing, education, transportation, health care, employment and public policy,” said Commissioner Daleske. “It is important that each person is counted so congressional districts are aligned in accordance to the true number of people in the district. States, counties and towns receive their share of $650 billion distributed by the federal government each year, according to census counts. There have been changes in Missouri related to the 2010 census. The state lost a congressional district because of a difference in population after that census. There have also been changes in the geographical size of North and South Road Districts in Benton County because of shifts in population.” 
Google reports that businesses use the Census Bureau data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, and create jobs. Local government officials use the census to ensure public safety and plan new schools and hospitals.
Commissioner Daleske said that census forms used to be put on doorknobs, but for the first time this year people will have the option of submitting their census online, by phone, or by mail. Invitations to complete the 2020 census will begin arriving at homes across the country between March 12 – 20. 
Some populations in remote parts of Alaska are already being counted this month. April 1st is the day that everyone should have responded to the census invitation, and during that month census takers will begin visiting college students living on campus, people living in senior centers and others who live among large groups of people. Between May and July, census takers will begin visiting homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 census.
The Census bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress, and by December 31, and on March 31, 2021 the Census bureau will send redistricting counts to states for purposes of redrawing legislative districts based on population changes.
About half-a-million census positions will be open to personnel in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Many of these positions are for field personnel, but there are also field supervisors, recruiting assistants, clerks and office operations supervisor. To be eligible for a position, an applicant must be 18 or older, have a valid Social Security number, a valid email address, be a U.S. citizen and be able to speak, read and write English. Bi-lingual applicants are encouraged to apply. Applicants have to undergo fingerprinting and pass a criminal investigation, have a valid driver’s license, access to a vehicle, and access to a computer with internet and email account. Pay for Benton County census takers is $17 per hour with reimbursement for work-related mileage and applicable expenses, and applicants get paid while training. Many of the jobs have flexible hours.
Application for census-taker positions must be made online at https://2020census.gov. The application takes about 30 minutes to complete. 
A Benton County woman named Monica was a census taker during the 2010 census. She said that she enjoyed meeting new people and interacting with them. She went door to door and found many retired people living near the lake at home during the day.  She said that farmers were usually at home when she called too.  However, many other people were working and she had to revisit in the evening or weekends.
“I worked 40 plus hours a week, by myself,” said Monica. “However, my training period was with a partner. My busiest times were in the summer.”
When asked if anything unexpected happened during home visits, Monica said that one time a dog nipped her as she was getting out of her car. She also pulled up to a house and one of the occupants shot a gun into the air saying that they didn’t trust the government. Monica calmly tried to tell them about the importance of the census, and they said they didn’t care. 
“It absolutely didn’t deter me,” said Monica. “In fact I have already done some census work in past months mapping houses and will be training for census taking soon. People interested should get out and apply for a position. You can work in other counties if you want to. Mileage reimbursement is about 55 to 57 cents a mile. It is a great job for a stay-at-home mom.”
NPR.com reported that in July 2019, federal courts permanently blocked the Trump administration from adding to the 2020 census the question, “Is this person a citizen of the U.S.?”  The question was very controversial. The Trump administration had previously insisted that it wanted to add the question because the responses can be used to better enforce Voting Rights Act protections against discrimination of racial and language minorities. However, a federal judge in New York rejected the explanation, and a judge in California wrote that including the question “threatens the very foundation of our democratic system.” A majority of the members of the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts and kept the question blocked from the census.
Critics of the question suggested that asking about citizenship in the current political climate would discourage households with noncitizens from participating in the census which could result in an undercount of Latin people and other communities of color. 
There are new write-in areas on the 2020 census form under the race question for the non-Hispanic origins of those who identify as white and/or black (including those with German and Jamaican origin.) There are also new household relationship categories that allow couples living together to identify their relationships as either “same-sex” or “opposite-sex.”
Every living person in the U.S. regardless of citizenship or immigration status gets counted. International visitors on vacation or work trips to the U.S. during census are not included.
 

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