Less than six weeks remain until the United States conducts its 24th decennial census.
“It’s a responsibility of every person living in Indiana County on April 1 to fill (the census form) out,” said Josh Krug, deputy director for planning at the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, and chairman of the Indiana County Complete Count Committee.
That’s a panel that officially has more than 40 members, split up among six subcommittees, for education, the business sector, social services, agriculture, government outside of Indiana Borough and White Township, and a subcommittee for those municipalities as well as Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“The number one goal … is to increase awareness of the importance, the ease and the confidentiality of the 2020 census,” Krug said.
As noted on the county planning icopd.org website, the census is “so important that our nation’s founders mandated the decennial census in the Constitution.”
As also noted on the county website, “10 quick questions and 10 minutes is all it takes.”
The county website said information gathered by the census is used for many things, including distribution of more than $675 billion dollars handed out annually by Washington to state and local governments.
“Here are some of the programs that may directly affect you: Medicaid; school lunch programs; Community Development grants; road and school construction; (and) medical services,” according to icopd.org. “Missing just one family of five is a loss of $100,000 for your community over 10 years.”It also affects a state’s representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Pennsylvania has seen recent increases in population, but not on a par with other faster-growing states, thus a loss over the past 20 years of three House seats — and an anticipated loss of one more seat, according to reports from various sources that quote Bureau of the Census projections.
The Complete Count Committee as a whole has met twice so far, with a third meeting to be conducted March 12 at 10 a.m. at a place to be announced. Krug said it would be completely open to the public, and anticipated that more than 100 community leaders and others from those different sectors.
Meanwhile, between March 12 and March 20, invitations to participate in the 2020 Census will start arriving in households across the country.
“The invitations will remind respondents to include everyone living in the household, whether they are related or not,” said Dr. Steven Dillingham, director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census. “This includes young children. Your response will impact communities for the next decade.”
According to national census officials, areas that are less likely to respond online will receive a paper questionnaire along with the invitation to respond online or over the phone.
There also will be reminder letters between March 16 and March 24, reminder postcards to households that have not responded between March 26 and April 3, then another round of letters and paper questionnaires between April 8 and April 16, and a final set of postcards between April 20 and April 27.
“We would like to maximize the self response so we get a complete count of everyone in Indiana County,” Krug said. “This year for the first time ever people will be able to fill out (census forms) online, or on the phone, or by the traditional method (of having a someone come to the door).”
The latter activity, a census taker following up in person, would happen sometime between May 13 and July 31.
The national census director said the bureau is ready for the response.
“Millions of Americans are applying for 2020 Census jobs, more than 270,000 local and national organizations are engaged, and in less than 30 days the majority of U.S. households will receive an invitation to respond to help ensure that every person in the U.S. is counted,” Dillingham said.
And they’re ready for problems, such as the question of where an IUP student should be counted. Krug said they’re counted here in Indiana “but the census does have a way of filtering out potential errors.”
And for keeping what is collected confidential. Authorities on county and federal levels say no law enforcement agency can access or use personal information collected in the census at any time.
As for those “millions of Americans” applying for census jobs, that doesn’t include anyone on the Complete Count Committee, Krug said.
But it can include anyone interested in a part-time or temporary job, “anywhere from five hours a week to 30 hours a week,” the county deputy planning director said.
“Rate of pay is between $13 and $18 per hour,” according to a description for Indiana County census jobs found on the PA CareerLink website. “Applicants must be able to visit their assigned addresses when people will most likely be home so the job will require evening and weekend work. They will also be paid for their training and mileage while working. Must be able to work mornings, afternoons and evenings, both during the week and on the weekend. The hours and days depend on when respondents are home and the survey workload.”
Applicants must be United States citizens, at least 18 years old, and have a telephone, a valid driver’s license, and use of an insured vehicle.
In weekly emails sent by state Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, and Downtown Indiana Inc., a series of sessions are listed where would-be census takers could get their questions answered and get hired:
They’re slated at the CareerLink office at 300 Indian Springs Road, White Township, Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon, as well as March 5 and 12 at those same times; and at the Indiana Mall, 2334 Oakland Ave., White Township, on Friday as well as March 6 and 12, from 9 to 11 a.m. on each occasion.
KEY CENSUS DATES
March 12-20: Households will begin receiving detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail.
March 30, April 1: The Census Bureau will count people who are experiencing homelessness over these three days.
April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the census. When you respond to the census, you’ll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.
April: Census takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers and others who live among large groups of people.
May-July: Census takers will visit homes that haven’t responded to help make sure everyone is counted.