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The U.S. Census Bureau is looking for hundreds of workers in Rome and other Northwest Georgia communities in the run-up to the 2020 national count.

Applications will be accepted over the next four months to fill the temporary positions, according to Mandy Maloney, the Bureau’s regional partnership specialist.

“They’re good solid jobs that are not just knocking on doors,” Maloney said.

The pay rate for census takers is $14 an hour in Floyd and surrounding counties except Polk, where it’s set at $14.50. Jobs based out of the Atlanta office pay $17.50 to $22 an hour.

To apply online, go to 2020census.gov/jobs. Applicants also can call 1-855-562-2020 and select option 3 for assistance. The Bureau plans to start conducting background checks and making job offers in January.

“It feels like you’re applying to a robot but it gets to a person, I promise you,” said Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis, a member of the county’s Complete Count Committee.

Applicants must be at least 18, a U.S. citizen and have access to a computer and email account for training, which will begin in March for census-takers. Veterans may be eligible for preferential hiring.

“While positions are available across the country, the Census Bureau is committed to hiring people to work in the area where they live,” the website notes.

The census will be conducted online, with instruction letters going out in March to each residence. Floyd County had a response rate of 74% in 2010.

Rome-Floyd Planning Director Artagus Newell said staffers led by GIS Director Ted Edwards have been working since 2017 to verify every address and update the census tract map that will be used for the mailings.

“We have about 40,000 residential addresses right now,” he said.

Newell said they’ll continue adding information as new residences are built. The activity will end early next year by using permit applications to estimate new construction that will be completed as of April 1.

Households that don’t respond will get reminders, and eventually a paper questionnaire, before enumerators get to work in May. They’ll call first and, if that doesn’t net a response, they’ll head out into the field. That job could last anywhere from three weeks to three months.

“In April there will be a website where you can see where responses are coming in by census tract,” Maloney told members of the Complete Count Committee during their first training session.

Committee members are local leaders in various sectors such as education, nonprofits, business and the faith-based community. They’ll also be reaching out to the people they come in contact with.

A major targeting tool will be the Response Outreach Area Mapper, called ROAM, which includes demographic information about each of the census tracts. Maloney said the variables can be used to develop strategies to encourage those households to join the count.

“We get as creative as possible,” she said, floating suggestions such as setting up response tables at the closest grocery store or a sports event likely to draw people from that area.

ROAM is color-coded to indicate the response rates in 2010. The census tracts in and around the city of Rome appear to be the hardest to reach, with self-response rates below 40%.

Many of the housing units in those areas are occupied by renters, according to American Community Survey 5-year estimates. About 20% are fairly transient, having moved into their current residence within the past 12 months.

Newell said the GIS mapping team is making a special effort to ensure every rental unit address is in the census tract file for Floyd County.

Several CCC members noted that the current political climate could dampen the response rate in 2020 due to concerns about privacy. Maloney said cybersecurity has been a strong focus in U.S. Census Bureau preparations — and personal information can’t be shared under federal law.

“Census employees all take a lifetime oath to protect individual privacy,” she said. “The penalty is a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison.”

Maloney said when enumerators are set to work there would be an information campaign so residents can identify potential scams.

Each employee will have a watermarked badge with a photo and carry equipment bearing the official Census Bureau logo. Maloney cautioned that they will never ask for a person’s Social Security number or PIN code and are barred from seeking money, donations or support for political parties.

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