Make it count: Census Bureau raises Routt County wages amid recruitment issues |

Make it count: Census Bureau raises Routt County wages amid recruitment issues

Routt County residents have until Sept. 30 to complete the 2020 Census, which determines the allocation of more than $1.5 trillion worth of federal funding.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As officials gear up for the 2020 census, recruitment issues are raising concerns about how the U.S. Census Bureau will find enough staff to complete their work — including in Routt County.

With just weeks remaining before the census is scheduled to roll out, the Census Bureau has increased its wages for local, temporary jobs in an effort to entice applicants, and local officials are exploring ways to fill the gaps themselves. 

Workers can now receive starting wages of $16 to $22 per hour, about a $2 increase since the fall, according to Laurie Cipriano, a media specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau. She described the hours as flexible and the jobs as ideal for people looking for temporary work during the early spring and summer.

The wage boost comes after a report from the Government Accountability Office, presented during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing Wednesday, Feb. 12, showed major shortfalls in recruitment. 

The bureau fell short of its September recruiting goals, according to the report, and has not been able to catch up ever since. This month, the bureau failed to reach its goal of having 2.5 million applicants by Feb. 3, coming up short by about 400,000 recruits, according to an article from NPR.

Cipriano attributed the recruiting issue to the nation’s low unemployment. Routt County’s December unemployment rate was one of the lowest in the state of Colorado at 1.7%, according to previous Steamboat Pilot & Today reporting

“It’s always hard to hire people when unemployment is low,” Cipriano said.

The decennial census marks a national effort to count everyone who lives in the U.S. as of April 1. Counting already began in rural parts of Alaska last month. Making sure everyone gets tallied is a big undertaking but plays a crucial role in the nation’s future, from the federal government all the way down to individual communities like Steamboat Springs. 

At a glance

To apply for a temporary job with the U.S. Census Bureau, visit

Everyone should receive a census form by April 1, officially designated as Census Day. People can participate in the census via phone, mail or — for the first time ever — online. If people do not respond to the census by May, Cipriano said they should expect a knock on their doors from census workers reminding them to participate. 

The numbers from the census determine congressional seats and Electoral College votes for each state. They also help to decide the allocation of about $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year for things like Medicare, schools, roads and other public services supported by the federal government.

To boost local response rates, a group of about 20 people formed the Routt County Complete Count Committee. Chaired by County Commissioner Tim Corrigan, it features a broad membership consisting of city and county officials, as well as business owners, nonprofits and library and education employees. 

Other Colorado counties have formed similar committees

Corrigan estimates that for every person who gets counted, the county receives about $2,300 in additional federal funding. 

Thus far, the committee has focused much of its efforts on spreading the word about the census prior to forms being sent out in March. So far, this has included displaying informational materials at certain locations in the county. The committee also applied for a state grant to fund a mailing initiative to reinforce marketing materials from the Census Bureau. 

A major concern, Corrigan said, is how minority communities will participate. Aside from language barriers, some households with non-citizens worry they may face consequences if they submit a census form.

This comes after the Trump Administration pushed for a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The Supreme Court blocked that move in July, meaning the question will not appear on the census. Many still fear the debacle will lead some people, particularly immigrants, to reject the count, leading to inaccurate tallies.

To address those concerns, the Complete Count Committee is working with local nonprofits to establish sites at Routt County libraries where people can submit their census forms online. Ensuring families respond to the census before May avoids the door-to-door reminder from census workers.

In the wake of the Census Bureau’s recruiting shortfalls, Corrigan said the committee might need to take on more responsibilities than it originally anticipated.  

“We may need to re-focus some of our efforts to promote the employment of more census workers,” he said.

To apply for a temporary job with the U.S. Census Bureau, visit

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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