The census is coming; count on it

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By Diana Nelson

April Fools’ Day is typically reserved for pranksters. But in 2020, April 1 also will mark the start of a serious and significant campaign—the U.S. Census, which takes place every decade.

Since the last official census in 2010, the population in Tempe grew more than 10 percent, to the current estimate of 178,339 from 161,719, according to data gathered by the Maricopa Association of Governments.

And, the county of Maricopa continues to remain one of the fastest-growing in the country. In 1950, the census counted less than 350,000 people. Now, 70 years later, the county’s population is estimated at more than 4 million, with a median age of 36.

Even a slight uptick in population can mean a significant increase in federal funding, which will be used to determine local allocations for social-service programs, highway planning and construction, and more.

Accuracy in the census count is critical because every person represents about $1,979, explained Nikki Ripley, communication and media relations manager for the city of Tempe.

“The mayor and council, along with city staff, recognize the importance of educating our residents about the census, so we have already assembled a ‘Complete Count’ committee who meet monthly to develop strategies on how to best get out the word on this important effort,” said Ripley.

“The primary goal of Tempe’s Complete Count Committee is to count everyone once— only once, and in the right place. Our committee is composed of members, who live or work in Tempe, and who bring a valuable perspective or expertise in reaching audiences,” said Ripley.

“While we don’t know what to expect as far as the final number of people we will find, we are working to get an accurate count and especially of the students in the city.”

Ripley explained that while a student attending ASU may be from another state, since they are living most of the year in Tempe, they are eligible to be counted as a city resident “because this is currently where they spend the greatest amount of time.”

The census is supporting local count efforts through a national media outreach campaign, which will let the public know when questionnaires will be mailed. Also, for the first time, the census will offer online access to the questionnaires.

In addition, the Maricopa Association of Governments will coordinate a local outreach campaign to reinforce the importance of the census.

Members of the Tempe census group will serve until Dec. 31, 2020 and represent a broad spectrum of government and community leaders from education, business, healthcare and other community organizations.

Kyrene schools are being represented by Superintendent Dr. Jan Vesely, who is a member of the census committee.

“The Kyrene School District is a partner in the 2020 census initiative for school and community outreach,” said Erin Helm, director of communications and marketing for the Kyrene District.

“Kyrene’s role is to share census information with families and to hopefully help increase participation in next year’s census.

“School districts have an interest in complete and accurate census counts, because it helps us to better understand our demographics in order to anticipate future enrollment trends and to serve all students in our community,” said Helm.

At the moment, the census is in an organizing and educational phase, which involves recruiting employees to be part of the effort to gather the data. It is estimated the work of completing the census will create more than 6,000 jobs in Maricopa County.

While all jobs with the census are temporary, there are both full and part- time positions available in Tempe and Chandler. The local opportunities offer flexible work hours, including daytime, evening and weekends.

The 2020 Census Jobs website allows applicants to apply for a range of positions, including recruiting assistants, office operations supervisors, clerks, census field supervisors and census takers by completing a single application online.

For more information, visit the Tempe website at www.tempe.gov/ census

The official U.S. Census website can be found on-line at www.census.gov/2020census

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