With the 2020 census just around the corner, the U.S. Census Bureau is hitting the ground running in Middle Tennessee, recruiting applicants for hundreds of jobs already becoming available as it prepares to count each county’s residents.

Jerry Whitehead, recruiting assistant responsible for Franklin, Lincoln, Moore and Coffee counties, said about 350 workers will be needed in Franklin County to handle the upcoming census work.

He said full- and part-time jobs are available on flexible schedules with some positions being based at home.

Job fairs are being held in Winchester on the first and third Thursdays of each month at the Franklin County Library, 105 S. Porter St. in Winchester, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the exception of holidays.

Since Thursday is the Fourth of July, this week’s fair will be held on Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. instead.

Whitehead said hiring personnel who are county residents serves two purposes.

One, it allows the bureau to have people who know and can relate to the community, and two, it’s much easier to get information from someone who is a neighbor.

Computers will be available at the library, along with assistance, to help applicants.

They have to be 18 or older, have a valid Social Security number, and be a U.S. citizen. Seniors are encouraged to apply.

The pay is in the range of $14 per hour or more.

Job details and information about the application process is also available at 2020census.gov/jobs.

The Shelbyville census office, which is responsible for the state of Tennessee as well as Western Kentucky, is hiring 1,500 workers, Whitehead said, adding that there is a desperate need for clerks, with a pay range of $16 per hour.

The only drawback on those jobs for Franklin County residents is that they would need to commute to Shelbyville.

Why it matters

Chris Conklin, partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau in Middle Tennessee, said recently that the census has some very significant financial impacts on communities like Franklin County.

“More than $675 billion comes into the state in federal grants and federal funding each year,” he said. “We have some studies that show the cost to the state and local governments is about $1,091 per person who doesn’t complete the census. If you extrapolate that out by one percent, you’re looking at roughly $70 million per year that the state and local governments could miss out on.”

Additionally, the census helps with planning, Conklin said, adding that it is the “gold standard” as communities and businesses look to their future and anticipate trends in areas of growth.

Citizens will be able to complete the census form online this next year for the first time in the process’ history which dates back to 1790.

“In 2020, we’re doing a number of new things,” Conklin said. “For the very first time, you have the opportunity to go online and complete your census, either by your smartphone, tablet or computer.”

Residents who receive the census mailer will have a unique code to fill out the questions online if they choose. They can still use the bureau’s 1-800 number or complete the traditional census form, too.

Workers will confirm that listed addresses actually exist before mailers are sent out in March of next year.

As part of that early process of canvassing, census workers will be in neighborhoods taking pictures and geocoding addresses.

Once the initial census data is collected from households that voluntarily respond to mailers, workers will head out to the field to knock on doors of those who haven’t responded.

The completed U.S. census report must be on President Donald Trump’s desk by Dec. 31, 2020.

That means counting more than 330 million over the course of several months.

Through the end of this year, the Census Bureau is working to educate people about what to expect next year and is spreading the word that the census is safe, and that the information gathered is confidential.

The Census Bureau is strictly prohibited from divulging any personal information to outside parties, including other government agencies.