2010 Census recruits scouts
April 17, 2009
Some have taken the job for fun, adventure and curiosity. Others are here to pay off credit card debt and shore up their finances during Park City’s mud season, when ski resort jobs dry up and business slows. The Department of Commerce enlisted nearly a thousand Utahns for early fieldwork. For the team based in Summit County, training began Tuesday afternoon at the National Ability Center.
On April 9, the Census Bureau launched a national effort to verify and update millions of addresses to prepare for the Census in 2010. Early field work ensures more people receive questionnaires in the mail, and return them. correcting maps, adding houses, and in some cases whole streets to existing records, government workers will make demographic data more accurate.
Development and a population explosion in Summit County over the last decade add urgency to the task, said Todd Hansen, the man in charge of training 960 scouts in Utah.
The state came tantalizingly close to receiving another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during the last count. Accurate numbers in 2010 could mean more federal funding. The state received $600 for every person newly documented since the previous census report.
Nationally, states receive $300 billion in federal funding each year based, in part, on census data, Hansen said. Money will be used for roads, schools, education and housing projects.
Sandy Freestone of Pinebrook is one of about 10 Summit County residents who will traipse around neighborhoods, byways and far-flung rural area in the Utah with a hand-held computer strapped to her hand. The devices will be used for the first time this year and feature a Global Positioning System tracker and mapping software. In the past, Census employees canvassed with pencils and folding maps. Still, shoe leather remains the most important resource.
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Freestone already works fulltime as a florist at Smith’s grocery store. For the next two months, until the end of June, she will spend weekends and afternoons, as many as 40 hours a week, doing legwork for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Canvassers earn between $11.50 and $14 an hour and receive 50-cent remittance for every gallon of gas spent on the job. In a brittle economy, the wages are a way for Freestone to meet expenses. "I figured get an extra job, dig yourself out," she said candidly. "Improve your debt-to-income ratio."
Freestone attended a training seminar at the NAC Tuesday to learn how to operate the mapping device. Seated a few feet away, Paula McGee of Coalville fiddled with the device. The job with the census bureau is McGee’s third. She works intermittently at Recycle Utah, drives a taxicab part time and works four days a week at Whole Foods grocery store. The economy wasn’t the main factor in her decision to take the job, but it influenced her decision. "The timing couldn’t be more perfect because it’s shoulder season," she said.
Not that the job is easy money. Mapping is tricky business in Utah because of the abundance of unmarked homes, growth, terrain and weather. "It’s hundreds and hundreds of miles," Wollenberger cautioned. A jeweler by trade, Wollenberger plans to hawk her wares at the Park Silly Sunday Market. She plans to skip the Kimball Arts Festival, though. She said the economy was a factor in her decision to take the Census job. The hours are flexible and the pay competitive, she said, especially since the jewelry market has tightened. "No one knows the value of anything right now," she said.