The big push to count everyone in the United States starts on April 1, and in places like Pittsburgh, the U.S. Census Bureau needs to hire more people to do the work.
The bureau has hired 69 percent of the workers it needs in Allegheny County, according to recent data. Many of those jobs are for enumerators, the people who go door to door to get residents to answer the Census.
“The Census bureau has work to do,” said Gregg Behr, head of the Complete Count Committee for Allegheny County, the group in charge of maximizing Census participation. “They've acknowledged right here in Allegheny County, and across the country, that their numbers in hiring enumerators [are] not where they want to be.”
Surrounding counties have only hired between 45 and 52 percent of the bureau's workforce goals.
In an effort to attract more workers, the government has boosted pay for enumerators by $5 an hour over the last year, to $23.50, in Allegheny County. Meanwhile, Behr's committee has been working to make sure they're prepared. Behr said an accurate count is important because Census numbers determine representation in state and federal government, and help direct federal dollars to the region.
But despite the hiring numbers, Behr and others are encouraged by the collaborative relationship the bureau has developed with the committee.
“We’re encouraged that they’ve been making adjustments in terms of pay that they’re offering and how they will support enumerators,” Behr said. “We’re really grateful that representatives of the Census Bureau meet with us. So when they say ‘we need to find more Chinese-speaking enumerators,’ or ‘we need to find more enumerators in lower Lawrenceville or in Bedford Dwellings,’ that there are people on the Complete Count Committee who know where they would turn and are right there.”
“This work does not happen in a vacuum,” said assistant county manager Andréa Stanford, who works with the committee, which is made up of a broad coalition of community leaders. She acknowledged there’s more work to be done on the bureau’s part, but said there will be lots of activities throughout the county to educate the public about the survey’s importance. “Residents are getting the word about why it matters and how to be engaged.”
Stanford hopes people fill out the survey before an enumerator needs to show up and remind them.
“There'll be communications received by residents from the Census Bureau to either go online, call or request a paper form to complete the Census,” she said. “Households will start to receive that information in mid-March.”