Challenge Alert

Lock in $15,000 with your donation by 6:30 p.m.

Donate now

Census hiring starts in Delaware to count ‘every human’

New Castle County hosted the first of 25 job fairs to recruit workers for the 2020 census on Wednesday morning at the county’s Route 9 Library and Innovation Center in New Castle. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

New Castle County hosted the first of 25 job fairs to recruit workers for the 2020 census on Wednesday morning at the county’s Route 9 Library and Innovation Center in New Castle. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

A handful of job seekers filled out applications Wednesday morning at New Castle County’s Route 9 Library and Innovation Center. They’re hoping to be among the 1,500 full- and part-time workers hired to help conduct the 2020 Census between now and next fall.

County Executive Matt Meyer — once a census enumerator himself — said the job is a great opportunity to make sure those undercounted in 2010 are included this time.

“We’re looking to do a much better job this year. We’re reaching out particularly to communities that we know are historically undercounted,” Meyer said. Those undercounted communities include children 5 and younger, people of color, college students and non-English speakers.

The 2010 tally missed about 9,000 Delaware residents, Meyer said. That undercount cost the state about $14 million in federal funding every year since.

“Getting an accurate count does lead to a proper amount, a correct amount, a greater amount of federal dollars and federal support for programs here,” he said. “It’s also important that it leads to a greater number of resources for those underserved communities.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments next month on whether a question about citizenship status will be allowed on the 2020 Census forms. Delaware is one of 18 states to sue the federal government over the question, which could suppress census responses.

“There’s a situation right now in this country where people are trying to intentionally undercount certain populations,” said Meyer. “There’s an effort underway to say, ‘We want to count these people, but we don’t want to count those people.’ And what we’re saying clearly today to all the people in our county, ‘If you are a human being, we want to count you.’”

The constitutional requirement to conduct a census every 10 years originally called for only “free persons” to be counted, while those held in slavery would count for only “three-fifths of all other persons.” Meyer said that historic fact should remain in the past.

“We need to make sure that attitude and that government policy is in our distant history,” he said. “There are those among us in this country, unfortunately, who are promoting policy where we don’t count every human being, and that’s wrong.”

In a time of low unemployment, Meyer said he’s heard from business leaders about their difficulty filling positions with qualified workers.

Securing enough Census workers may also be tough.

“We certainly understand that hiring enumerators is a challenge,” he said. “I’ve even joked with my staff that maybe I’ll take some time and go out and knock on doors if I’m needed.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.