With the official start of the 2020 Census less than two months away, local census officials are starting to recruit some 1,500 temporary workers needed to count and collect data on McLennan County residents.

The hiring decisions will begin in January, but candidates are encouraged to apply now by going online at 2020census.gov.

“Apply now, get on the website and get your application in,” Esmeralda Hudson, co-chair of Waco’s 2020 Census Complete Count Committee.

Census jobs with the McLennan County office will pay between $13 and $19.50 an hour, according to the U.S. Census Bureau website. The bureau will be recruiting workers in a tight local labor market, with McLennan County unemployment at 3.2 percent in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hudson said in March, census officials will begin focusing on populations that are hardest to reach.

“They’ll have an idea of who hasn’t responded and start trying to get them to respond,” Hudson said.

The committee is especially focused on reaching Hispanic residents, homeless residents and college students, three groups who are harder to reach and likely to be undercounted. According to census estimates, McLennan County is roughly 27% Hispanic.

During the meeting, the committee discussed plans its officials are forming with Baylor University’s student government to promote census participation among college students and discussed the possibility of holding on-campus ambassador training for students looking to get involved.

Committee members also plan to meet with the Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition to discuss ways of reaching homeless Waco residents.

The committee is still seeking funding for outreach and advertising in an amount between $129,000 and $291,000.

“It’s difficult to make an impact, and you can see why, with all of these initiatives that we’re trying to do,” Hudson said.

The committee is applying for two grants: the Texas Communities Count Hogg Foundation Grant, which specifically targets hard-to-reach populations; and the Texas Counts Pooled Fund Grant, funded by Communities Foundation of Texas.

“We’re only funded for $20,000 right now,” Hudson said. “I’m hoping to get as much as possible for these upcoming grants.”

She said she’ll know whether or not they’ll receive grant funding in December.

The census can be completed over the phone or online, but access for residents is still an issue. The committee is also considering ways of bringing the census to college campuses and out to the community. The committee may purchase 20 mobile Wi-Fi spots to set up mobile stations where people can walk up and complete their census in locations without Wi-Fi.

“For our undercounted populations that don’t have access, that’s going to be a key component,” Hudson said.

They also discussed using Waco-McLennan County Library’s mobile library and other city vehicles, fitted with Wi-Fi hotspots, to create mobile centers.

“We’re talking about the possibility of a vehicle that can be driven around that has Wi-Fi to go into those areas where there is not Wi-Fi readily available,” District 2 Councilman Hector Sabido said.

In addition to the Census employees, the committee is trying to recruit between 100 and 200 census ambassadors, volunteers who spend time spreading awareness. During Monday’s committee meeting, Hudson said the group has recruited 50 so far.

“By the end of the training, the goal is that they’re as excited as we are,” Hudson said. “Now we have advocates.”

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