AUSTIN (KXAN)– Starting on August 11, people working with the U.S. Census Bureau are supposed to start knocking on doors of folks who have not already completed a census form.
But a spokesperson says the coronavirus pandemic has slowed operations.
“I got furloughed on March 19 for my regular job,” says Tom Suarez.
When Suarez was told he wouldn’t be able to work at the Horseshoe Bay Resort for at least a month, he was looking forward to starting his job with the U.S. Census in Llano County.
“Maybe doing 40 hours or more, whereas I planned on doing 20 at first just to get some extra money. So, I was happy to be out there the very next day,” he says.
But on his first day canvassing — workers were called back.
“We suspended operations because of COVID,” says Jerome Garza, assistant regional census manager for the Dallas regional office.
Garza says between March and June, operations focused on outreach, rather than hiring.
“So there’s a slowness that’s occurred. It’s not a backlog,” he says.
He says about 2,000 people in the Austin area have done their fingerprinting as part of the application process.
Garza says more than 1,600 of them have been offered the job and training.
But some say they’ve been waiting weeks for that call.
“I know people that have applied, and they got put in the middle of the hiring process but unfortunately all that seems to have been put on hold,” Suarez says.
Garza asks applicants to be patient.
He says they are now working seven days a week to call everyone back and will also continue hiring even after census-takers hit the ground on August 11.
“We have rolling for training classes going on. That will be beginning in the next two weeks, and continue on until at least the beginning of October,” Garza says.
Meanwhile, local census committees hope they won’t need to rely on census-takers, at all.
“We are cautiously optimistic that people will continue to self respond and get the message that they can do that online or by phone or by mail. So that enumerator does not need to come to their door and do that count,” says Anita Collins of Hays County’s Complete Count Committee.
You can fill your census form online here or by calling (844) 330-2020.
About half the responses so far have been submitted online and half by mail.
Garza says Hays County (55.7%) is lagging behind Travis (61.2%) and Williamson counties’ (66%) response rates, which are more in line with the rest of the country (62.3%).
But the rest of Texas seems to be a bit behind as well, at a 57.2% response rate.
The overall response rates are also lower than they were for the last census, Garza says. He says Texas is seeing a roughly 5.5% decrease over 2010.