Not being counted will cost Oregonians money. That was the message presented by Sarah Bushore, one of six partnership specialists with the U.S. Census Bureau in the state.
A total of $675 billion is handed out to states every year for revenue sharing. Of that, Oregon gets $13.4 billion for school lunches, Section 8 housing, construction, hospitals, free clinics and other uses. “You’ve got quite an extensive list of what we use that money for,” Bushore said. “That’s why the count is so important and that we get it correct. Our goal is to count everyone once, and only once, and in the right place.”
While about 80 percent of the population are expected to respond via the internet, phone or mail, about 20 percent of county residents are considered “hard-to-count individuals,” Bushore said.
These could include senior citizens, those who don’t have access to the internet; migrant workers; renters; children under the age of 5, homeless or people from other nations, Bushore said.
Names, address, phone number, birthdays are among the data collected by census takers. This year, the Census Bureau may ask an 11th question: “Are you a U.S. citizen?”
“We’ll find out when the Supreme Court makes their decision, which could be toward the end of April,” Bushore said.
An undercount could cost the state in terms of national political apportionment, as well as a loss of about $3,100 per person in federal benefits.
Right now, the census process is in the “education phase,” Bushore said.
Through December, key community and municipal leaders receive training, informational materials and one-on-one meetings with the Census Bureau partnership staff about the importance of the census and the need for local support to ensure a successful count.
Along with Seaside, Bushore will visit other Clatsop County communities to share the message and set up workshops to increase response.
Once the census process is underway next April, an individual will receive three “invitations.” This will be followed by a short form, and the fifth correspondence a reminder. “If you don’t fill it out by the fifth time, an enumerator — a fancy word for a census taker — is going to knock on your door.”
Recruiting efforts are stepping up, she said, with the Census Bureau only at 30 percent of full staffing. “Who better to enumerate seaside than the people who live in Seaside?” Bushore said.
Enumerators work 10 to 40 hours a week, receive $17.50 to $19.50 per hour, and are available to U.S. citizens over 18. “It’s more of a seasonal job,” she said. “It’s not for someone who is looking for full-time employment.”