Monday, March 15, 2010

A Good Count

2010 Census forms begin making their way to mailboxes across the nation this week and the people-counting efforts are getting extra attention in Edgecombe County. 10 years ago, when Census workers were doing their tallies for the 2000 Census, much of the county was still in disarray. Flooding from Hurricane Floyd put 40 percent of Edgecombe under water and forced thousands of people from their homes and into temporary housing only about 5 months before the Census began.

As a result, Edgecombe County leaders say many residents were missed in the 2000 count. In a county that's been suffering through high unemployment and other economic malaise for more than 15 years, missing parts of the population in the Census--and the millions of federal dollars that could cost--is a major thing.

This time around, county officials are going all-out to make sure everyone in Edgecombe is counted. In reminding citizens to fill out their Census questionnaires, county leaders are also letting them know about the millions of dollars at stake if Edgecombe County is under-represented. Census workers are also involved, meeting with church groups and other local organizations to get the message coming in from many different directions. Edgecombe's official population has been somewhat unclear to many of the people who live there--hopefully the 2010 Census will remove the confusion.

The Regional Census office for eastern North Carolina is in Rocky Mount and so far applications from temporary employees have been brisk. "We have gotten a good response in Edgecombe and Nash counties," said Lindberg White, Jr., the Manager of the Rocky Mount Census office. Edgecombe has one of North Carolina's highest unemployment rates, but White doesn't believe that's the only reason so many people have been interested in the part-time Census work. He says it's most difficult to find qualified applicants in counties that are more rural and sparsely-populated than Edgecombe.

The Rocky Mount office oversees people-counting efforts in 17 eastern North Carolina counties. White says it's hard to put an exact figure on the number of people that will ultimately be hired to help with the Census because of turn-over and other things, but he expects it will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1800 workers. White says he won't know exactly how many people he'll need until the Census questionnaires start coming back: the more residents who mail in the Census form, the fewer workers needed to go door-to-door.

Those who are hired can expect to earn between $11 and $14 an hour and could potentially have Census-related work through the fall.


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