Census application

Jessica Basham with the US Census Department helps Jeffrey Meadows of Princeton apply to be a census taker for Mercer Co.

PRINCETON — Hiring people to gather census 2020 information is one of the steps toward making sure Mercer County stays significant enough to qualify for federal grants and other benefits by making sure its population is completely and accurately counted.

Representatives of census 2020 had a meeting Thursday at the Mercer County Courthouse about the benefits of the upcoming count. Michael Bennett, partnership specialist with the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, said the meeting’s goal was to form a standing Complete Count Commission to help ensure a complete census count in Mercer County.

“That we count everyone once, just once, and in the right place,” Bennett said.

The 2020 census is looking to be the nation’s leading provider of quality data about people that can be used for grant writing and other purposes that serve the public, he stated. Conducting a census periodically is mandated by Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

Data the census generates is used every year to determine how $675 billion in federal money is distributed, Bennett stated. It’s also used for redistricting state and legislative districts, forecasting future transportation needs and public services, determining area eligible for housing assistance, designating facilities for the elderly, determining federal funding for schools, and other functions.

“So it’s really about money,” Bennett said.

“We really wanted to focus on the ability for people to understand the importance of the census,” said County Commissioner Greg Puckett, who attended Thursday’s meeting with County Commission President Gene Buckner; the gathering was not a county commission meeting.

“We know that in 1950 we were at the max of our population, about 75,000,” Puckett said. “And over the years because of moving away for jobs or being relocated, that’s been a challenge to keep that population strong. The estimated census around 2017 was around 59,000. The estimated 2020 Census would be around 57,000, which is about a 9 percent loss since the last census we’ve had.”

“We know that Mercer County sees its fair share, but unfortunately with dwindling population you become less significant to those funding sources,” Puckett stated. Florida is going to get another two, three, four congressional seats. When West Virginia loses a potential seat, you become less significant, so we need to make sure every person is counted, try to keep that seat, try to keep our importance out there so people will know West Virginia is still here. We’re a vibrant community and we want to make sure we have the best of what we have. Those census numbers are very, very important.”

The goal is to have representatives of local government, schools, business, law enforcement agencies and other local entities on the Complete Count Committee.

Another goal is to find local workers to gather the census information. Being a census worker pays about $16 a hour and 58 cents a mile for mileage, Puckett said. The job includes weekly pay and paid training.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and must undergo a background check, Bennett stated.

Specific application requirements can be found at 2020census.gov/ jobs, he said. Potential applicants can also call 1-855-JOB-2020 (5622020).

Jessica Basham of Mercer County said after the meeting that she was thinking about applying.

“Well, I’m a local business owner, so I definitely know how important knowing those numbers are to your community,” she said, adding she also works for a local nonprofit agency. Helping with the census was a way to help the community.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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