BANGOR, Maine — The Census Bureau is gearing up for the process of counting every person in Maine beginning early next year.
The bureau has offices in three Maine locations, including Bangor, where as many as 1,000 part-time workers will be hired to help canvas the eastern and northern parts of the state.
“Bangor is at the southern tip of our area. We will be going all the way to the Canadian border,” Irene Dennis, manager of the Bangor office, said Monday. There also are offices in Portland and Augusta. “Right now we’ve been busy getting fully staffed.”
Census worker positions provide a minimum of 20 hours a week. Field workers will be paid $13.25 an hour plus 55 cents a mile. There also are clerical jobs that pay wages comparable to those paid for similar skilled employees in the Bangor region. Dennis said some of the jobs would last into early spring while others would continue into June.
“A lot of retirees apply for the jobs,” she said. “We have people from all walks of life. It’s wonderful the amount of diversity we have working for the census. We have to count everyone. We have to account for every different person, and we have different ways to do that, based on what we’ve learned from the challenges of the past.”
Most of the state’s residents will receive their 10-question census form in the mail. Those with post office boxes or those who fail to return the mailed form will be contacted personally by a census worker. The questionnaire contains demographic information only and does not delve into specific information of a personal or financial nature.
“It is required to respond to census questions, and we do everything we can to make it as easy for people as possible,” Dennis said. “How many we contact personally will depend on our mail response. Sixty-four percent send them back without further prompting.”
The Better Business Bureau recently sent a notice urging people to be cautious about becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft at the hands of people who might be posing as census workers. It warned about divulging personal information to strangers and always to ask for identification when a person at the door claims to represent the Census Bureau. The census does not use e-mail so residents are advised against responding to e-mail requests claiming to represent the Census Bureau.
Dennis said the bureau was aware of the Better Business Bureau’s concerns and had taken measures to ensure its field workers have the proper identification. She stressed that all census workers will have identification, and residents can call her office to confirm that the person at their door works for the bureau. She said census workers never ask to enter someone’s home and do not ask for Social Security numbers or credit card information.
“Safety is our number one concern, too,” she said.
The 2000 census recorded about 1.2 million people in Maine, and the estimated population in 2008 was 1.3 million. The state has about 700,000 housing units, and 71 percent of Maine residents own their own homes. There were about 2.39 people per Maine household in 2000.
Dennis said the census is required under the Constitution, and the bureau has spent the past nine years preparing for 2010. The New York Times reported Saturday that the government would spend $2.3 billion on 1.2 million census-taking jobs this year.
“When you think about the scope and size of this undertaking, they’ve been planning it since the last census. It’s a huge undertaking,” Dennis said.
Census workers were out in force earlier this year double-checking addresses and entering them into hand-held computers. That information was sent to the national processing center in Indiana, which will process the questionnaires later this year. When the center finds an address where the resident has not responded to the questionnaire, a field worker will be asked to conduct a personal interview, Dennis indicated.
“Our goal is to get as many people to respond as possible,” she said.
She noted that because many Maine residents winter out of state, the bureau makes a special effort to ensure that they get counted at their primary residence.
“Historically, the Maine response rate has been a little higher than the national average. We want to ensure that we only count people once. That’s our goal, to count everybody once and count them in the right place. If you live in Maine six months and one day, you get counted in Maine,” she said.
The Bangor office of the Census Bureau is located at 107 Farm Road on the new Beal College campus. There will be an open house of the office from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15, 2010. Those considering applying for a census position should call 866-861-2010, which connects callers to the Bangor office.