Census seeks local workers for March questionnaire distribution

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— At the beginning of March, Coloradans will start trooping from door to door to count their neighbors as part of the 2010 census.

That requires about 80 workers in Routt County, and census workers said there is a test nearly every day within driving distance of Steamboat Springs for people who would like to work.

Bill Hugenberg oversees the Grand Junction census office, which covers 37,000 square miles in two reservations and 20 counties, including Routt.

“At this juncture, we’re scheduling about 100 tests a week all over the territory” the office covers, he said.

The census workers will hand-deliver about 250,000 census questionnaires across the region in March. Especially in rural areas, hand-delivering the census is more cost-effective and elicits higher response rates, Hugenberg said.

To become a census worker, applicants must complete a 28-question test covering basic reading, math and organization skills. The top applicants, with a preference to veterans, will be selected to work 20 to 40 hours a week on a temporary, intermittent basis.

“It’s a different type of test than you might have encountered elsewhere,” Hugenberg said, and anyone interested is encouraged to take a sample test at www.census2010.gov. Skills measured on the sample test include alphabetizing names and reading maps.

The census office also has set up a toll-free number for people interested in working, which is 866-861-2010.

“When we call them, we’ll be calling a person for a specific job, and we have a wide variety of different kinds of jobs,” Hugenberg said. “Specifications of that job will be explained to the person, and they will be given an opportunity to accept or decline.”

The jobs in March will be during daylight hours only, he said, and high-performing workers in March will have an opportunity to work again in the summer.

Hugenberg said the census organizers are not looking for one specific type of worker but that they are seeking local people to administer in each area.

“My focus is not so much on the kind of person but on where they’re coming from,” he said. “What we’re trying to overcome is (the idea) that the census is being conducted by Washington. The goal is to have the census in Routt County conducted by folks from Routt County. Neighbors counting neighbors.”

The census will hold tests for potential employees at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Bud Werner Memorial Library, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Steamboat Springs branch of the Colorado Workforce Center and at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday at the North Routt Fire Protection District station.

The questionnaire

The census itself will be far easier than the job application, Hugenberg said. It’s a 10-question form designed to be filled out in 10 minutes. The full census is taken every 10 years. Unlike in past years, there are no “long form” versions of the questionnaire, and everyone will see the same document.

On the census questionnaire, people are asked to list the members of the household, identify their race and identify their relationship to one another.

Hugenberg said the census is more important to local affairs than many people realize. For each person who is counted in the census, local agencies — including schools, municipal government and departments — get $800 to $1,000 in funding, Hugenberg said.

The information is sent to sorting facilities, and census workers are sworn for life to not reveal any information they gain during the process. Anybody with questions about a census worker may call 800-852-6159 to verify the worker’s status.

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