MURRAY — The person leading local efforts in compiling the 2020 U.S. Census that is intended to count every person living in the country told a committee this week that its members will be surprised how fast the April 1 target date for residents to have participated in the activity will arrive.
LaDawn Hale is the partnership specialist for the Philadelphia Regional Census organization and is in charge of eight western Kentucky counties. She led a meeting on Tuesday of the Calloway County Complete Count Committee and said the time is now for preparations to move into full swing.
“There’s a lot happening and it’s going to go ‘Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!’” said Hale, who did not waste time getting the attention of her audience. “I serve eight counties and I’m happy to do that. It’s a fun position, but, as you know, it is in our Constitution. It’s the law to fill it out and it has to do with funding of your community. Over $675 billion is allotted to communities across the United States throughout the 10 years every year, so we don’t have to wait for that money, unless your county doesn’t get counted, and I do have one county in my set of counties that did not get counted the last time in 2010.
“I wasn’t around then, but I have learned of some of their struggles and it looks like, unfortunately, we may have some counties headed in that direction in other parts of the state, so I’m glad Calloway and none of my others are headed in that direction this time and that’s because of your trusted voices.”
Also in attendance Tuesday were a pair of census officials: Frances Ryan, who is the recruiting coordinator in Calloway County, and recruiting assistant Laura Larkins. Their job is ensuring that enough people locally will be able to hold the duty of census takers — formally known as “enumerators” — the ones who will, if necessary, go door-to-door to obtain the proper information from residents.
Ryan said the goal is to have 455 people apply for enumerator jobs, but that has had a slower-than-wanted start.
“(Philadelphia officials) want a certain number of applicants per county, and they raised Calloway’s numbers a while back and they may raise them again. Right now, we’re at 224, so we’re only at about 49 percent of our goal,” Ryan said, adding that recruiting efforts are being increased. “Laura and I are going to go to the (George Weaks Community) Center, we’re going to go to the (Calloway County Public) Library and we will speak with people anywhere, any time.
“We don’t have an actual number known yet that (Philadelphia) is going to hire, because that changes. But people can still apply online (at 2020census.gov/jobs), even after April 1 because we’re going to still have to have people for this. We’re going to have people change their minds and decide this isn’t for them, or something else changes. We’re just going to need someone to replace them, but we’ll be here to assist with that.”
Mark McLemore, executive director of the Murray-Calloway County Senior Citizens Center, which is inside the Weaks Center, said he and his team are already making preparations for a recruiting drive, which received a thumbs-up signal from Ryan. Also, both Calloway County Schools and the Murray Independent School District, as well as Murray State University, had representatives at Tuesday’s meeting who said those entities will probably host recruiting drives, particularly for students.
Anyone who turns 18 by April 1 is eligible to be an enumerator. Larkins said it is a job that will pay $14 an hour and 58 cents a mile for 15 hours of work per week.
“They can choose their own hours. All they have to do is decide how they want to get it accomplished,” Hale said.
Hale said that this push to inform the public will continue into March. Then, toward the middle of March, the actual census will be made available to families. The goal is for the census to be completed and submitted by April 1, which is being billed as “Census Day” nationally. However, Hale said it is understood that work will be needed past that date to complete the work.
The next meeting of the committee is set for 2 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Big Apple Cafe on Arcadia Circle. The public is welcome to attend.