February 16, 2010 | KRGV | Original Article

2010 Census Hiring Effort to Highlight McAllen/Edinburg

MCALLEN - Need a job? The 2010 Census hiring campaign hits high gear at the McAllen Convention Center with testing days set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday for anyone interested in joining.

No appointment is necessary to take the skills test needed for the job. The test is scheduled on the following days and times:

McAllen Convention Center
700 Convention Center Boulevard
Thursday and Friday: 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Test takers will need two forms of identification (a student photo identification card, driver's license or state identification card), along with a birth certificate, passport, or Social Security card.

The U.S. Census Bureau is struggling to find the 3,600 workers it needs to get an accurate count in the parts of South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.  It's an area with some of the state's highest unemployment rates and a community that is very difficult to count.

The lack of adequate workers could mean an undercount that could cost the region millions of dollars in federal funding for social services, roads, schools and hospitals that are badly needed.

The unemployment rate in Hidalgo County is at 11.7 percent, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. The Census Bureau, though, as of the first week of February, had only received a little more than a 40 percent of the 11,554 applications the agency had hoped to recruit in order to conduct Census operations in Hidalgo and Starr counties.

As of February 14, Census recruitment efforts in McAllen and Edinburg had so far prompted only 4,618 applications, just six weeks before Census questionnaires are mailed. The Edinburg Census office covers an area where many residents are new immigrants and where in most homes only Spanish is spoken. It also covers an area with many colonias, which are impromptu communities that lack many basic services, such as running water and sewer service.

The area's population is more diverse than ever before, with a record number of people speaking languages other than English. As a result, in many areas the Census Bureau will need to hire many bilingual speakers of Spanish and English.

"If we do not obtain an accurate count in 2010, each person residing in the United States will be affected," said U.S. Census Bureau Dallas Regional Director Gabriel Sanchez.. "Everyone deserves to have a voice and be counted, and by working for the 2010 Census, you will be directly involved with ensuring that happens."

The Census Bureau expects to hire as many as 3,600 part- and full-time workers for the region, which stretches from Weslaco to the Falcon International Reservoir along the border, north to Santa Elena. The Census is seeking workers to conduct the Census in their own communities. Pay ranges from $8 to $24 an hour for job titles ranging from clerk to supervisor. The terms will last from May through July or longer.

The decennial Census determines congressional representation and the annual distribution of more than $400 billion in federal funds for local and regional services. In 2008 alone, the federal government spent or committed to spend more than $1.2 billion in federal grants and program funding in Hidalgo County.

Most positions require U.S. citizenship, a driver's license and the use of a vehicle, and each applicant will undergo a background check.

Hiring has already started and will extend through spring 2010 for temporary assignments, most lasting eight weeks to a few months. The Dallas Regional Census Center is expected to hire about 111,000 workers to complete its task in its region, which includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Those electing to work for the 2010 Census won't lose their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (previously known as the Food Stamp program), thanks to a recent interpretation of eligibility regulations. The news is especially good news for those seeking employment in tough economic times, and when the Census Bureau is still seeking qualified applicants to help complete the 2010 Census in their own neighborhoods.

Workers already could hold onto their Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) aid if they took jobs with the Census. The interpretation means that the roughly 1.4 million adult Texans receiving SNAP aid won't jeopardize their nutrition benefits if they elect to work for the 2010 Census.

"The jobs, which offer competitive wages and flexible schedules, also allow people to work in their neighborhoods and for their neighborhoods," Sanchez said. "We hire locally, and an accurate count means a fair distribution of money for schools, roads, neighborhood improvements and elderly care in your community."

At the time of the April 1 Census count, it's estimated that more than 310 million people will live in about 130 million households across the country; yet each individual must be counted at their residence in order to ensure that seats are appropriately apportioned in the U.S. House of Representatives and that federal funding is distributed fairly.

If you can't come to the testing site, applicants are urged to call a toll free number, 1-866-861-2010, to schedule a time to take a qualifying aptitude test.

For more information on hiring, visit the Census' job site at
http://2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs/. For information on the 2010 Census in general, visit http://www.census.gov/2010census/.