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North Georgia prepares to be counted
County officials urge participation as Census office hires workers
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Carol Zaremba
Gainesville’s U.S. Census office is gearing up for a massive hiring campaign, with between 1,500 and 2,000 temporary workers needed to knock on doors in 16 Northeast Georgia counties.
Already, the Gainesville office, which opened in December 2008, has employed about 1,000 temporary workers to do field preparations last year that included address verification. The new hiring wave will be for follow-up work after the Census form is mailed in March.
Approximately 260,000 households in that area will get the Census form, said Carol Zaremba, manager of the Gainesville office.
In May, Census field employees will begin visiting households where the form was not completed. Hall County officials, however, are hoping to limit the number of those who don’t respond.
About $400 billion in federal money for communities nationwide hinges on Census figures. Hall County officials say the community receives about $13,000 in federal funds for every household that completes a Census survey.
“The data that is collected will affect each and every one of us, each and every day, for the next decade,” Zaremba said.
Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, and Bill Lightfoot, dean of Brenau University’s School of Business & Mass Communication, urged residents at a Gainesville Rotary Club meeting Monday to get the word out about the Census.
“This is the easiest Census survey in U.S. history,” Moss told the audience. “If you’ve got a child in third grade in your household, you can give them this Census form and have them complete it.”
Moss encouraged the Rotarians to wear buttons advertising the Census. “We want you to be a human billboard,” she said.
When the last Census was taken in 2000, about 33 percent of households in Georgia did not complete and return the Census form, Zaremba said.
“We’re hoping significantly more people will respond,” Zaremba said. “It’s the shortest form in Census history — 10 questions, 10 minutes. It’s safe; we cannot share information with other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.”
Despite its simplicity and safety, local officials say many are wary of answering the forms.
“One reason why is people are fearful of government intrusion,” Moss said. “There are a growing number of individuals who believe there is a direct line between Census, immigration and deportation.”
Zaremba said in counties with large Latino populations, including Hall, Census recruiters are looking for Spanish-speaking workers. Recruiters are working in all 16 counties to hire people.
The Gainesville office oversees an area of counties from Fannin to Rabun and down to Barrow. The biggest need for Census workers is in Gilmer, Rabun, Towns and Stephens counties.
Pay starts at $11.75 per hour, and employees could expect to work full time from several weeks to a couple of months. Some part-time workers also are needed.
Applicants must complete a 30-minute multiple choice test that covers clerical skills, reading, numbers and organizational skills, among other subjects.
Census workers will be hired in March and April.
“The closer we get to Census day, which is April 1, the busier we are and the more preparation we have to do to get ready and be well-trained to visit these folks who have not responded to their questionnaires,” Zaremba said. “I would say we have an amazing team. They’re bright, conscientious and committed to this important operation.”
Anyone interested in applying for a Census job should call 866-861-2010. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, have a valid Social Security card and pass a background check.
Staff writer Jeff Gill contributed to this story.
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