Nearly 1,000 census workers will hit the streets this month

Thursday, April 1, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:29 a.m. CDT, Thursday, April 1, 2010

COLUMBIA — Beginning this month, the 2010 census crews will head into Columbia's neighborhoods, tallying up folks who didn't mail back their forms. The postal deadline is Thursday.

The third week of April, census workers will search for the homes of residents who did not return their forms. This process continues through June.

A census worker can visit a home up to three times in order to speak with a resident whose forms are unreturned.

As of Monday, Jerry Taylor, the local U.S. Census Bureau office manager in Columbia, had hired 838 temporary workers to cover 14 counties. 

“We try to hire people in the community they live in because they’re familiar with it,” he said.

Three months ago, Taylor had five people working for him. Two months ago, that number increased to 49. In March, it swelled to 90. Now he is sending hundreds out to collect information.

Craig Best, assistant regional census manager based in Kansas City, said 9,000 workers have been deployed across the state of Missouri.

Workers must be at least 18, but otherwise there is no age limit, according to Taylor, 71. They must be legal permanent residents with a valid driver's license and pass a background check. Speaking English is necessary; bilingual skills are a plus.

Applicants take a multiple-choice test of basic skills that include reading, following written instructions, basic math and map reading. They may retake the test to improve their score.

The applicant also must participate in a training program that covers policies, paperwork and procedures.

Because census takers have different levels of experience, they have different rates of pay.

According to Taylor, workers in Columbia are paid from $11 to $14 per hour, less than the scale in Kansas City or St. Louis.

A routine census taker is paid $11 per hour; a crew leader overseeing several census takers is paid $12.50 an hour; and a field operations supervisor overseeing four or five crew leaders is paid $14 an hour.

“We use GPS coordinates to keep track of houses to make sure we’ve got them in the right location,” said Michael Ferguson, an area manager for the census bureau in Kansas City.

“We want to make sure we get everyone counted in the right place only once.”

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