- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Tim Yingling is taking time in between home schooling his two children in Fort Belvoir, Va., to earn some cash. Dara Winborne, a college student who has taken a semester off, is working nearly full time.
The two new federal workers are among the 13,000 to 15,000 census takers on the payroll in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The temporary employees also known as enumerators began knocking on neighborhood doors April 27 in a 10-week effort to collect census information from households that didn't bother to return the completed form, lost the envelope, misplaced the survey or are adamantly against responding.
"Probably the most difficult thing is to try to convince steadfast, die-hard people who didn't want to mail in the form to fill it out," said Andrea King, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia regional census center, which covers Maryland and the District. "There are some people for their own personal reasons that just won't do it."
Despite its challenges, the short-term job has attracted an array of workers from college students and retired military officers to housewives and full-time professionals ranging in age from 18 to 80.
The reasons for taking the job vary just as greatly, from wanting to use the money to pay off Christmas bills to earning extra cash to play bingo.
Enumerators in Maryland, Virginia and the District are making $10 to $17.75 per hour, depending on the cost of living in each area. The D.C. employees are paid the most, with a $15.75- to $17.75-per-hour rate.
"It's good money," said Miss Winborne, who will work between 35 to 40 hours a week. "It's worth putting in long hours."
The job ahead of them isn't so easy. In fact, the nearly 500,000 enumerators nationwide must visit 42 million households by July 7. That's the 35 percent of households that didn't complete their census 2000 form and send it back.
In Virginia, 70 percent of the households completed and returned their forms, and it's likely the state will have responses from 99.5 percent of the households, said Jim Brantley, a spokesman for the regional census center in Charlotte, N.C., which includes Virginia.
Based on the enthusiasm from the state's 11 local census offices and the good response enumerators have gotten so far, Mr. Brantley is confident Virginia will be complete two weeks before the deadline.
Maryland had a return rate of 67 percent, while the District lagged behind with 58 percent. Census offices are still receiving the forms so the number of households that need to be visited varies every day.
The enumerators will make up to three telephone calls and three personal visits to households that have not returned the form. After that, the enumerator then must contact neighbors, rental agents or building managers to find out basic information about the residence.
The Census Bureau began recruiting in January, blanketing the country with print and radio ads, posters, brochures, stickers and direct-mail pieces to attract the part-time workers.
"It was slow in the beginning," Miss King said. "Because the economy has been so good, people have been able to get jobs with benefits. There was no rush for a part-time job."
But the applicants eventually began pouring in. On the national level, there was a pool of 3 million applicants. It was important to have that many applicants so each of the 520 local census offices could accommodate schedules or replace positions when workers leave.
The applicants, who undergo FBI background checks, first had to pass a 30-minute, 28-question test that focused on their reading, mathematical, clerical and organizational skills.
The applicant's name then went into an employee database that would match them with the closest neighborhoods. There are at least five persons for each neighborhood so one worker can replace another, if needed.
The training sessions last three full days or five evening sessions and are given continually throughout the 10-week period so the Census Bureau can replace any workers who may leave.
During training, the temporary employees learn basic information and history about the census, how to collect data, interview residents and fill out log books.
Employees also must be aware of the Census Bureau's privacy and confidentiality code. If violated, they could be faced with a five-year imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
The enumerator training includes role-playing exercises ranging from hostile residents that may slam a door in their face to those lonely residents who may invite the worker in for coffee and a three-hour chat.
"We try to train them to expect the unexpected," Mr. Brantley said.
The enumerators, who must always be polite, are taught to back away if there is any complication. A supervisor will eventually visit that house.
"We want to get the information," Mr. Brantley said. "We just hope the citizens will be civil."
The census takers will come across the occasional hostile respondent or one who has a problem with the government, but so far the experiences have been more positive.
"When I actually catch people at home, they are usually polite and cooperative," Mr. Yingling said. "They understand why I'm there."

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