Editorial: Census seeks you for next year's count

Preparations for the 2020 US Census are picking up steam locally. Two job fair events are planned in Dorchester next week to recruit men and women to fill various part-time positions— mainly as “enumerators,” the people who actually go door-to-door to count the population.

On Wed., Dec. 11, the Fields Corner branch of the BPL at 1520 Dorchester Ave. will host a recruitment day from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. On Sat., Dec. 14, the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition will do the same beginning at 9 a.m. at its headquarters, 690 Washington St., Dorchester.

The Census Bureau says it plans to hire as many as 500,000 temp workers nationally. Depending on the position, they are good-paying jobs that offer paid training, weekly pay, and flexible hours, including daytime, evenings and weekends. The estimated pay rate in Boston (Suffolk County) is $20-$25 per hour, according to the site 2020census.gov.

The census will begin its official count in Alaska next month. Here in Boston, we should expect to see mail solicitations via the mail in March. Actual door-to-door interviews— which will target “non-responsive” households that don’t participate via mail, phone, or online— will begin next summer.

“We need people to apply now so they can be considered for part-time census taker positions next spring,” said Timothy Olson, the Census Bureau’s associate director for field operations, in a statement released this week. “Recent high school graduates, veterans, retirees, military spouses, seasonal workers, and applicants who are bilingual are highly encouraged to apply. It’s important we hire people in every community in order to have a complete and accurate census.”

To qualify for a 2020 Census job, you must be at least 18 years old with a valid Social Security number; be a US citizen with a valid email address; be registered with Selective Service (if you’re a male); and pass a criminal background check, including fingerprinting.

What’s at stake? Plenty. It’s a critical measurement for how federal dollars are allocated. It’s also used for allocating Congressional seats and will be the tool by which local political districts are re-drawn in the next couple of years.

Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin has said that estimates show our state currently has roughly 6.9 million people. “That’s clearly enough people to justify the nine seats in Congress that we now have,” he told WCVB-TV. “But if the count is badly flawed and we come in at a substantially lower number than that, then it presents a problem.”

Next week’s job fairs here in Dorchester won’t guarantee employment. But it’s essential that qualified job seekers apply now to enter the pool. The selection process for census taker positions starts next month, with paid training set for March and April. Workers will start going door-to-door to “non-responding households” in May through early July.

For more information, you can call 1-855-JOB-2020 and select Option 3. Applicants may also contact the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339. Or visit 2020census.gov/jobs.

– Bill Forry