Census taker pay bumped to $19 per hour in search for hundreds more applicants


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – By this time in 2010, local census offices were fully loaded with the employees needed to tackle the decennial task.

This time around, some counties have collected about half of the job applications required to fill positions, according to Kevin Flanary, a partnership specialist at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

According to Flanary, the unemployment rate has a lot to do with the number of applications collected for census takers.

“This year, we are struggling with hiring because unemployment is so low, so it’s kind of a Catch 22, it’s a good thing, but it kind of hurts us in that aspect,” he said.

To draw more applicants, the Census Bureau has bumped the pay for two of the largest counties in our region – Washington and Sullivan counties.

The Bureau is offering $19 for Sullivan County census workers, and $16.50 for Washington County workers. As of Thursday, the pay remained $13.50 for Census workers in Unicoi, Johnson and Carter counties, Flanary said.

All counties include a 58-cent per mile fuel reimbursement rate.

“Participation’s been a little better in the smaller counties as far as percentage-wise, but the actual numbers, the sheer numbers that are needed in Washington and Sullivan are much higher,” he said.

Flanary added that Washington and Sullivan Counties have garnered about half of the desired number of applications. With census postcards going out in less than two months, he said the bureau is holding job fairs throughout the region in order to fill the ranks.

Flanary teased a recruiting event that will take place on Feb. 4 at Boones Creek United Methodist Church, 1882 Old Boones Creek Road.

Other upcoming job fairs include:

1/21/20201PM – 4PMAvoca Branch Library1550 Volunteer Pkwy, Bristol, TN 37620
1/22/20208:30AM – 12:30PMAmerican Job Center1140 E Center St #4963, Kingsport, TN 37660
1/22/20201PM – 4PMAvoca Branch Library1550 Volunteer Pkwy, Bristol, TN 37620
1/28/20201PM – 4PMAvoca Branch Library1550 Volunteer Pkwy, Bristol, TN 37620
1/29/20208:30AM – 12:30PMAmerican Job Center1140 E Center St #4963, Kingsport, TN 37660
1/29/20201PM – 4PMAvoca Branch Library1550 Volunteer Pkwy, Bristol, TN 37620

Flanary said most applicants for the positions have been college students, retirees, and veterans, so recruiting efforts include university campuses and veteran organizations.

Applicants for the census must be at least 18 years old, be a U.S. citizen and pass a background check.

The region reflected an 82-84% participation rate in the last census, Flanary said. The 18% of people who didn’t participate equates to about 20,000 people in Washington and Sullivan counties.

“The cost of one person not participating is pretty astonishing,” Flanary said. “You’re leaving millions on the table each year with participation being like that.”

According to research from George Washington University, the census helps guide the distribution of funds for more than 300 federal programs. The 2010 census data guided the distribution of more than $1.5 trillion to local and state governments, nonprofits, businesses and households across the country.

Flanary said he hopes that the online option that’s been introduced this census will help participation, and lessen the door-to-door work that census takers have undertaken in past years.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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