Story last updated at 12/30/2009 - 12:13 pm
Long before spring breakup, when many residents of rural Alaska head off to fish camps, U.S. Census Bureau workers will begin their count of residents living in communities off the road systems.
Census Bureau Director Robert Groves has said he will personally fly to Noorvik, 45 miles east of Kotzebue, to get the national census count underway on Jan. 25.
The official start of the 2010 census is April 1, but census officials want to get their work done before residents head for fish camps and other subsistence pursuits.
Federal law requires that all residents of the United States and its territories fill out and return the census questionnaire. The financial payback is significant, according to Ingrid Zaruba, a research analyst with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, writing in the December issue of Alaska Economic Trends.
The Census Bureau is expected to employ about 2,000 people statewide to conduct the census. Pay ranges from $17.50 to $20.50 an hour for field staff, and census taker jobs last six to 10 weeks. Nationally the census count will employ more than 1 million people.
Every year more than $400 billion in federal funds are distributed nationally to local, state and tribal governments based on census data.
Governments at all levels use the data for purposes that include determining revenue sharing for communities, locating schools, roads and hospitals, and forecasting future transportation needs, Zaruba said. Many government programs require census data to support grant applications for community services, such as school lunch programs, day care programs and services for the elderly.
Officials with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development have worked in conjunction with the Census Bureau for the past decade to make sure that the 2010 Census gets as complete a count of Alaskans as possible, Zaruba said.
Data collected by census workers is confidential. No Census Bureau workers will ever ask anyone's legal residency status or citizenship. Information gathered will be a primary benchmark for measuring historical change and making population projections, Zaruba said.
The Census Bureau will send a postcard in early March alerting people to be on the watch for the questionnaire, which will be mailed between March 15 and March 17. If the Census Bureau hasn't gotten it back within two weeks, a census worker will make a site visit. If a household doesn't receive mail at home a census worker will deliver the form and request it be mailed back. If the form isn't returned within two weeks, the census worker will make a site visit and collect the form.