My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘Non-Response Follow-Up’

Breaking News from Breitbart: Census waste caught on tape in undercover sting operation

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Conservative activist James O’Keefe (of ACORN fame) has produced the following video. It will be aired on Good Morning America later today:

MyTwoCensus Editorial: For the sake of employees, tell the truth about how long NRFU operations will last

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

MyTwoCensus has received confidential reports from multiple Census Bureau officials that non-response follow-up operations in many parts of the country are winding down. By law, the Census Bureau can only contact non-responders three times in person and three times by phone — even though MyTwoCensus is currently investigating whether additional illegal contacts are taking place.

Because of the Census Bureau’s computer failures, the 2010 Census may be coming in over-budget (apparently $15 billion wasn’t enough cash…). Since the Census Bureau doesn’t want to take yet another scolding from the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, they may try to abruptly end the 2010 headcount ASAP.

With half a million workers on the streets during this large-scale operation, there is significant amounts of confusion about how long jobs will last. Lying to Census Bureau employees, who very well may lose their jobs within the next one or two weeks (by the end of May) is not the answer. Yes, these jobs are temporary, but working through the end of July meant an additional two months of security and stability for many individuals employed by the Census Bureau who may have quit lower paying jobs to take on these positions. Additionally, it seems to be that thousands of individuals went off unemployment to take their Census Bureau jobs. These people should not have been told that they would have 6-8 weeks of work if they really only have 4 weeks of work.

MyTwoCensus Investigaton: Are Census Bureau enumerators attempting to go to each residence more than three times (the maximum number of visits as stated by law)?

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

UPDATE: MyTwoCensus has learned from a Census Bureau official who has requested anonymity that in urban areas, because the travel time between units is negligible, Census Bureau officials have been visiting units up to six times. Large municipalities, particularly those with low participation rates thus far, are fearful of undercounts, so they welcome these measures.

MyTwoCensus has learned from the blogosphere and from anonymous tips (a new feature on our updated contact page) that Census Bureau employees, who are permitted a maximum of three personal visits and three phone calls to each residence that has not returned their 2010 Census forms, have actually visited residences upwards of six times. (We blame Census Bureau officials, not the enumerators!) Yes, these are your tax dollars at work. Here’s the law, as taken from the Census Bureau’s web page:

We have perused the blogosphere to discover that a Census Bureau employee in Chicago has reported the following problems on her blog:

Shifting Census Rules: Six Visits Becomes 36 Points of Contact. Or: WTF?

We learned in training–over and over and over again–that we’re allowed three personal visits and three phone calls. I’ve blogged about this before, because about a week ago, when we started turning in forms with three personal visits and no actual contact, they changed the rules. That’s when we were told six personal visits, despite what had been burned into our brains in training.

Well guess what’s happening now?

Enough time has lapsed that those six visit EQs are coming back and a few of them still haven’t been able to find a proxy or a respondent. In most cases, in my district, they’re in locked buildings with no access to any kind of entry, and no neighbors. My enumerators have tried calling Realtors listed on the signs but they won’t call back. We’re all assuming that the buildings are vacant, but the LCO doesn’t like that.

So now they’ve said that for every single visit our enumerators should be knocking on the doors of six neighbors. By the time they’re done they should have 36 point of contact. THIRTY SIX POINTS OF CONTACT. A close-out, they stressed to us, is very, very, very rare.

Now, let’s set aside the fact that this is stalking, it’s creepy and it’s absolutely and completely ridiculous.The thing that gets me is that, of all rules they can change, I don’t think they should be screwing with the manuals.

How many times were we told to stick to the script? That these had been tested, researched, shot into outer space, all that crap, and that they KNOW that this works the best way. With three personal visits and three calls I can see their point. Much more than that is going to be the law of diminishing returns.

Not that you can reason with these people.

Are these type of shenanigans happening in other areas as well? Please leave your comments below to alert the public and the government officials who read this site where and when similar activities are taking place.

Census Director Robert M. Groves Lies: The Census Bureau’s software, IT, and computer problems are NOT fixed

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Earlier this week, Dr. Robert M. Groves told NextGov that the Census Bureau’s infamous computer problems with the paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) software were fixed. He even went so far as to have a memo, obtained by MyTwoCensus, sent by his underlings to Census Bureau officials throughout the country, relaying this information:

Attention: Regional Director, Deputy Regional Director, Assistant Regional Census Manager for IT, and Lead Support Coordinators/Representatives.

Update: The technical team is ready to implement the fix for performance issues.  In order to do so, the system will be brought down at 6:45 PM ET.  All users need to log off prior to this time and remain out of the system until further notice.  This process should take approximately two hour and once the system is available, there will be a staggered log-in.  DOTS will send out another message regarding when PBOCS will be available and the staggered log-in schedule.


From:

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support 2010/BOC

To:

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support 2010/BOC@BOC

Cc:

Alan J Berlinger/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Arnold A Jackson/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Brian E McGrath/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Bridgette M Hendricks/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Curtis L Broadway/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, dcurtner@harris.com, Decennial IT Support List, Dennis W Stoudt/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, dmays@harris.com, Dsouzav@GAO.GOV, DSPO PBO MGMT List, Ellen W Cafarella/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, fdca_pbams@ics-nett.com, FLD 2010 Regional Offices List, FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, FLD Regional Directors, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Hilda S Dimmock/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Jacque M Biles/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, jlawrenc@harris.com, K Evan Moffett/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Karen C Field/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Louis R Avenilla/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Lucia J Chavez/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Maryann M Chapin/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, mtrocki@OIG.DOC.GOV, Pamela D Mosley/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Robert M Groves/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, SJackson@OIG.DOC.GOV, Tammi Michelle Archer/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, TicehurstJ@gao.gov, TMO DOTS 2010 Staff List, Viola L Lewis Willis/AMSD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Wayne Dustin/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

05/13/2010 05:10 PM

Subject:

UPDATE INFORMATION – PBOCS Performance Issues, 5:00 PM ET, 5/13

Sent by:

Rebecca St Martin

Attention: Regional Director, Deputy Regional Director, Assistant Regional Census Manager for IT, and Lead Support Coordinators/Representatives.

Update: The technical team is still testing the fix for the performance issues.  They hope to have the system available sometime tonight however at this point we do not have a more specific time frame.  DOTS will send out another update at 7:00 PM ET.

If you have any questions/concerns regarding this message, please respond to only DOTS 2010.  Please do not reply to all.

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support (DOTS) 2010
Phone: 301-763-2010


From:

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support 2010

To:

Decennial IT Support List, FLD Regional Directors, FLD Deputy Regional Directors List

Cc:

TMO DOTS 2010 Staff List, FLD 2010 Regional Offices List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Karen C Field/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Louis R Avenilla/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Viola L Lewis Willis/AMSD/HQ/BOC@BOC, DSPO PBO MGMT List, fdca_pbams@ics-nett.com, Hilda S Dimmock/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, SJackson@OIG.DOC.GOV, Pamela D Mosley/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Wayne Dustin/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Curtis L Broadway/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Dennis W Stoudt/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Maryann M Chapin/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Alan J Berlinger/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, dmays@harris.com, dcurtner@harris.com, jlawrenc@harris.com, TicehurstJ@gao.gov, K Evan Moffett/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, mtrocki@OIG.DOC.GOV, Dsouzav@GAO.GOV, Lucia J Chavez/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Ellen W Cafarella/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Bridgette M Hendricks/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Tammi Michelle Archer/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Jacque M Biles/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Brian E McGrath/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Arnold A Jackson/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Robert M Groves/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

05/13/2010 04:01 PM

Subject:

UPDATE: INFORMATION – PBOCS Performance Issues, 4:00 PM ET, 5/13

Sent by:

Chad G Nelson

Attention: Regional Director, Deputy Regional Director, Assistant Regional Census Manager for IT, and Lead Support Coordinators/Representatives.

Information: The fix for the performance issues currently be experienced is still being tested.  We remain with 6 regions on the system and 6 blocked.  DOTS will send out another update at 5:00 PM ET.

If you have any questions/concerns regarding this message, please respond to only DOTS 2010.  Please do not reply to all.

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support (DOTS) 2010
Phone: 301-763-2010

To: Decennial IT Support List, FLD Regional Directors, FLD Deputy Regional Directors List
From: TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support 2010
Sent by: Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC
Date: 05/13/2010 02:15PM
cc: TMO DOTS 2010 Staff List, FLD 2010 Regional Offices List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Karen C Field/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Louis R Avenilla/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Viola L Lewis Willis/AMSD/HQ/BOC@BOC, DSPO PBO MGMT List, fdca_pbams@ics-nett.com, Hilda S Dimmock/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, SJackson@OIG.DOC.GOV, Pamela D Mosley/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Wayne Dustin/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Curtis L Broadway/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Dennis W Stoudt/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Maryann M Chapin/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Alan J Berlinger/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, dmays@harris.com, dcurtner@harris.com, jlawrenc@harris.com, TicehurstJ@gao.gov, K Evan Moffett/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, mtrocki@OIG.DOC.GOV, Dsouzav@GAO.GOV, Lucia J Chavez/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Ellen W Cafarella/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Bridgette M Hendricks/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Tammi Michelle Archer/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Jacque M Biles/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Brian E McGrath/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Arnold A Jackson/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Robert M Groves/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC
Subject: UPDATE INFORMATION – PBOCS Staggered Log-in. Currently Suspended.


Attention:
Regional Director, Deputy Regional Director, Assistant Regional Census Manager for IT, and Lead Support Coordinators/Representatives.


Information:
Due to log-in issues caused by the number of users trying to come onto the system right now, the staggered log-ins have been suspended.  The six remaining RCCs will not be allowed to log-in until the current backlog has declined.  DOTS will send out a message when the remaining RCCs can log-in.

The remaining RCCs are:

2499 = Detroit

2599 = Chicago

2699 = KC

3199 = Denver

2799 = Seattle

3299 = Los Angeles

If you have any questions/concerns regarding this message, please respond to only DOTS 2010.  Please do not reply to all.

(more…)

Breaking News & MyTwoCensus Payrollgate Investigation: The Census Bureau has failed to pay thousands of employees!

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

SHOW ME THE MONEY! It’s simple. When you’ve got hundreds of thousands of employees working for you, pay them on time. MyTwoCensus.com has received more than a dozen complaints within the past 12 hours from Census Bureau employees, at offices throughout the nation, who have not been paid on time. It is unknown whether this inexcusable error by the Census Bureau is a result of computer system failures (a problem that has plagued the Census Bureau for months if not years — even though Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said two days ago that the problems were fixed). Even though most of the 500,000+ Census Bureau employees who are out in the field this week are temporary employees, they still depend on this income from the federal government. A great number of these temporary employees were unemployed before their Census Bureau work came about, and thus are now living paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, when those paychecks don’t come, everyone is hurt. This is particularly damning because many employees lost their unemployment benefits to take Census Bureau jobs, and will have an extremely hard time getting these payments again once the work is finished.

(Interestingly, a marketing firm called GA1 that had a contract with the Census Bureau publicly accused the government of not paying them on time back in March, but it’s unknown to me at this time whether the situation was resolved.)

One disgruntled employee wrote me the following about her experience, which sounds more like a Kafka novel than an account of living and working in the world’s greatest democracy:

I started working for the census on April 12, 2010. My first paycheck was supposed to be deposited on April 28 but it wasn’t. I called my LCO that day and was informed they entered the wrong account number into their system. They asked me for the correct account number and told me that they updated the system. Next they told me that I had to call the hotline to start the re-issuance process for the missing check. I did as instructed and was told it would take 5-7 business days to be deposited into my acct. The next payday was May 5 and check #2 isn’t there and #1 is still “missing”. I again call the hotline (got the answering machine the first 20+ times) when I finally found a human they wanted to take a message, I refused because I had left countless messages with no return call. So I waited on hold for over 25 minutes. I was told again that the check would be reissued in 5-7 days. Week 3 pay date May 12, finally a paycheck! However it was only for the last pay period. #1 and #2 still missing. I called the hotline today and I’m getting the run-around. They won’t tell me anything! I called DOL and was told they can’t help because technically I’m a federal employee and they gave me another number to call. I called this number and was told they couldn’t help because I was a temporary employee. What can I do? I need my money, I am a single mom with kids to feed. Right now I’m wishing I would have just stayed on unemployment. To top it all off, the uncaring attitude of my LCO doesn’t help… they just say don’t worry. You’ll be paid eventually, we don’t know when but eventually.

To the hundreds of thousands people who are victims of this lax payment plan by the government, know that I am here to fight for you. Please submit your stories in the comments section below. This behavior by the Census Bureau is unacceptable. Today, I am calling Dr. Groves (the Census Bureau Director), Steve Jost (the Census Bureau’s Communications Director), the Public Information Office, and officials who are responsible for the payroll to get to the bottom of this mess.

For now, MyTwoCensus.com urges ALL EMPLOYEES who have not been paid to contact your Member of Congress and your Senators. Go to their offices if you can, but if not, lodge complaints by phone and e-mail. If you wish, please send me your complaints privately as well. MyTwoCensus is in contact with both Democrat and Republican Members of Congress who will hopefully be able to have some clout to get this problem resolved immediately.

UPDATE: Here’s another update from an anonymous Census Bureau employee Asheville, North Carolina, which to my knowledge is the only place where the media has actually reported these problems:

No one out of the Asheville office was paid properly today. I received 0. Three of my crew also received 0. two got 1 days pay/ 5 got 2 Days pay.
When manager raised cain was threatened with firing.
One enumerator had to borrow 8 dollars for gas to get home. One is threatened with eviction from her trailer.
Asheville LCO told another enumerator to expect to be paid on the 26th.
Asheville LCO said not to worry it was a nationwide computer glitch.
Asheville did not care that these folks had been out of work and need the money…especially the gas they have been buying to do the job.
Please do not use my name or email or I will get fired too.
We heard from other census workers in different cld that they also had widespread pay issues.
No one we heard from in Asheville district got the correct pay.
What can we do? If we raise a stink they will fire us.
The Census is now hiring at $9.00 per hour. we were hired at $11.50/ Are they trying to force us out to hire cheaper workers?

Census Bureau Official: The Worst Local Census Office In the Nation

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The following piece comes from an anonymous Census Bureau official in New York whose identity has been verified but will remain protected by MyTwoCensus.com. This work below does not necessarily represent the views of Stephen Robert Morse or MyTwoCensus.com:

From the outside our LCO looks great. It sits in a high end commercial office building with beautiful views of Park Avenue and the Grand Central Terminal. But on the inside the office is the prime example of the appalling waste, lack of accountability, sabotage and finger pointing that has become widespread here at the 2010 Census.

Our LCO contains the upscale doorman buildings of the East Side, the multi-million dollar condos in Union Square and the Lower East Side, Fifth Avenue retail stores such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Bergdorf Goodman and famous restaurants such as Tavern on the Green and Smith & Wollensky. The average rent for a one bedroom apartment is upwards of three thousand dollars a month. For months, numerous employees warned everyone the demography of the residents and the high real estate prices was going to be a problem finding applicants for $18.75 an hour and free training space. The recruiting and partnership assistants had trouble finding partners that would donate space that we could use five days a week for eight hours a day. The LCOM made clerks cold call high end banquet halls, and conference rooms in private office buildings but most of them refused because in such a recession these businesses could be generating revenue instead of donating their space. Some spaces though were nice enough to say that if we would be willing to offset some of their custodial, security costs or even the cost for toilet paper they would offer us the space. But the Census Bureau was adamant about not paying a single cent for space.

The other problem was recruiting enough applicants. The office clerk rate of $14.25 and field employee rate of $18.75 an hour was chump change for what is considered one of the highest real estate prices in the country. Most of the people who take a job for these pay rates are students, public housing or subsidized housing residents or retirees. For this very reason we were ranked last in the nation when it came to recruiting enough applicants to do the census.

To no one’s surprise since recruiting numbers were not being met the career census employees at regional census center (RCC) and headquarters pointed fingers, blamed the local census office managers and bring in outsiders. They brought in regional technicians and other recruiting assistants from Queens to show us how to plaster and flier neighborhoods with posters. Nevertheless they didn’t even make a dent in the recruiting numbers. Looking for someone to blame the RCC fired the recruiting manager and asked another one to take over. When the second one refused to work with the LCOM, the solution was fire her too. Then they offered it to a Westchester manager who declined also. (smart move) And the regional technician from Queens spent a week there before he was fed up. Are you starting to notice a trend? You know there is a problem when people would rather be fired than work with the LCOM.

The employees refused to work with the LCOM because she was condescending, oftentimes publicly humiliating and sabotaging other managers from getting their job done. Most of all, the LCOM had it out for the AMQA. She [LCOM] diverted a strong OOS from quality assurance to recruiting and told recruiting assistants to refrain from finding training sites and questionnaire assistance centers (QACs). When the area manager sent partnership assistants to help look for additional QAC sites the LCOM diverted them also. Then they sent a regional technician to help her. He mapped the geographic location of all the QAC sites and figured out the hours they would be most effective. Then he coordinated some recruiting assistants to help telling them exactly where he needed QACs and what hours he needed them. She threw away the work and tried to get the regional technician fired.

At the climax, when the LCOM resigned her going away party featured a clerk who impersonated her in a wig and stormed the lobby like a drama scene from a reality television show. After the LCOM left, an RCC employee became the acting LCOM. Like other RCC employees he offered little constructive help but sitting at his computer falling asleep or basically hovering, standing over, watching as temporary hourly employees slave away at processing work on an antiquated system that does not work.

When it came time to hire enumerators for non response follow-up our office still didn’t have enough training spaces but told to select applicants anyways. Despite being the worst LCO in the country the office managed to select almost 2,000 applicants, hiring a negligible number of non-citizens and those who scored below 70 from an applicant pool of about 5,000. (the original applicant testing goal was over 12,000 applicants) Instead of finally compromising and paying for much needed space RCC asked the LCO managers to create a schedule to take advantage of every single seat in a classroom, moving and splitting crews of enumerators from one training site to another each day. A great idea from the outlook; but when you try to implement this it can be a logistical nightmare. We promised jobs to thousands of applicants but couldn’t fit them into training space so all this week we fielded phone calls from thousands of irate applicants who were desperate for work or enumerators who don’t even know where and when their next day of training is. While the office is fielding phone calls headquarters is making sure we key enough hires in the system. The office resorted to training their employees in the hallway of a high end commercial Park Avenue South office. The managers have to work from morning to midnight, sometimes through the night and everyday there are employees who basically break down and burst into tears in the office. The Census Bureau could of saved themselves money simply by pay their partners a stipend to offset custodial or security fees or even the toilet paper than pay the wages and overtime for the entire office which is probably in the tens of thousands.

Another example of government waste at its finest is how they bring in huge cubic dump containers to throw out entire storerooms of materials for the group quarters enumeration, recruiting brochures, and questionnaires. I ask myself if it was worth firing our AMQA over lack of Questionnaire Assistance Center sites when entire cubic containers of be counted census forms were just thrown out? In a few weeks during the non-response follow up operation we have to enumerate all the housing units in entire high rise apartment buildings in Manhattan because no one received census forms. This is simply because headquarters and RCC rushed and told people to work faster last year. If New York City is missing entire high rise apartment buildings imagine how many single family homes are missing across America. The joke of the office is if things don’t work headquarters will fly in people who will come in take over and magically “finish the job”. This is simply why places like New York City get undercounted.

So when the newspaper reporters are standing outside our office demanding interviews about why the office won’t respond to applicants request about job training. Why don’t they ask the RCC and headquarters? From the first look you can blame the temporary local census office but the real blame falls onto the RCC and headquarters who evaluate purely on numbers with little regard to the demography and real estate costs of one of the most expensive neighborhoods in America. The New York East 2230 office is the prime example of career level census managers who have tunnel vision. These people are former statisticians, mathematicians and geographers who are great at quantitative analysis but have little management experience and strategy.

If this LCO works just like any other office in terms of the waste it shows what must be happening in 494 offices across the nation every day. The Census Bureau MO “when things don’t work throw more money, resources and people at it.” This is why the census costs 15 billion dollars. The Census needs someone with real management experience and who is a real visionary. The employees at regional census center and headquarters should be ashamed of themselves. And to think the inspector general’s office was here just weeks ago makes it even more appalling. You can be sure I’ll be writing the congressional subcommittee about this.

Transcript from most recent Census Bureau press conference now available…

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Click HERE to read the transcript and/or watch the video from last Monday’s briefing at the National Press Club. Stay tuned for analysis of the transcript on Monday, particularly focusing on the failures of the paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) that Dr. Groves and reporters have discussed…

NRFU Operations: Missing binders or other materials in your area?

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

There have been numerous complaints on MyTwoCensus blogs about missing binders for NRFU (non-response follow-up) operations. Let’s try to track where this is a problem by writing your stories and locations in the comments section of this post. Thanks! SRM

Non-response follow-up (NRFU) operations begin today across America

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Please share your stories and questions about NRFU in the comments section.

Census Bureau Press Release: Door-to-Door Visits Begin

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Census Takers to Follow Up with About 48 Million Households Nationwide

WASHINGTON, April 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — About 635,000 2010 Census takers across the nation begin going door to door tomorrow to follow up with households that either didn’t mail back their form or didn’t receive one. An estimated 48 million addresses will be visited through July 10.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090226/CENSUSLOGO)

“America’s had a very successful first half of the 2010 Census, where more than 72 percent of the nation’s households mailed back their census forms,” U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said. “But achieving a complete and accurate census requires us to now go door to door to count all the remaining households we’ve not heard back from.”

If a 2010 Census worker knocks on your door, here are some ways to verify that person is a legitimate census taker:

  • The census taker must present an ID badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date.  The census taker may also be carrying a black canvass bag with a Census Bureau logo.
  • The census taker will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the local census office phone number for verification, if asked.
  • The census taker will only ask you the questions that appear on the 2010 Census form.
  • Ed O’Keefe reports on Census Bureau’s final stats on mailback “participation” rates

    Thursday, April 29th, 2010

    H/t to Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post:

    72% of households responded to 2010 Census

    Take a gander at the documents Groves shared with reporters at his announcement earlier today:

    The 2010 Census response rate matched returns for the 2000 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday.

    Seventy-two percent of American households returned questionnaires by last week and 28 states had higher response rates than 10 years ago. Seven of the 10 most populous counties matched their 2000 response rates as did eight of the 10 most populous cities, the Census Bureau said.

    Census Director Robert Groves estimated that between 46 million and 49 million households did not return questionnaires. Temporary census takers hired by the agency will hit the streets starting this week and will visit those addresses up to six times to get answers. The agency will further outline those plans at a news conference Monday.

    Groves said he anticipates critics will question why this year’s results only matched the 2000 response rates despite a multimillion-dollar advertising and outreach campaign, but he called this year’s results “unbelievable” because survey response rates have dropped significantly in the past decade.

    Socioeconomic concerns rather than race or ethnicity appeared to drive lower response rates, Groves said. Less-educated, lower-income households appeared to respond less. The nation’s foreclosure crisis also contributed to the lower rates, he said.

    The total cost of 2010 Census operations — budgeted for about $14 billion — will be known once officials get a complete tally of households that did not respond, Groves said.

    Earth Day Special: How much waste is there at the Census Bureau?

    Saturday, April 24th, 2010

    We didn’t cover Earth Day (which was earlier this week) on this site, so here’s our belated Census Bureau Earth Day tribute…The Census Bureau is now printing the address listing pages and other assignment-related materials for the massive  non-response follow-up (NRFU) operations. It seems like the Census didn’t care because all the printers ran non stop 24 hours to print out many documents (details of which are coming soon)…

    *Apologies for an earlier version of this post that only semi-listed the materials printed. We will hopefully have a complete list by Monday…

    Anatomy of a Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) failure…

    Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

    Below are e-mails obtained by MyTwoCensus.com sent from Brian Monaghan and Barbara M. Lopresti at Census Bureau Headquarters to every regional Census Bureau office in America that describe IT systems failures:

    From:
    Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

    To:

    FLD Regional Directors

    Cc:

    FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Timothy P Olson/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC

    Date:

    04/20/2010 09:52 AM

    Subject:

    PBOCS and NRFU

    OK, folks…   here’s where we are as of 8:45 a.m. Tuesday morning  -

    As of 6:00 p.m. or so Monday evening, the last of the LMR automated removal occurred.  On Friday, April 23, there will be a PBOCS deployment which will include the reports of LMRs since Monday.  Those reports will then be available for clerical line-through of LMRs on the assignment registers (which are hopefully being printed by then).

    We are expecting all of the even numbered AAs to have their reports (listings, labels, etc.) generated in the system by 11:00 a.m. this morning.

    The system continues to be somewhat unstable, so at midnight tonight we need all LCOs and RCCs to get off PBOCS and stay off until Thursday morning (we hope).  That will give us a clean opportunity to generate the majority of reports for the odd numbered AA’s (we hope).  So…  no users on the system starting at midnight tonight and lasting through Wednesday.

    Our # 1 priority is to get all of the reports generated and copied to an alternative printing site, so that if PBOCS goes down, the LCOs will still be able to print materials needed for NRFU assignment prep.   Once the even numbered AAs have all of their reports generated (by 11:00 a.m. this morning), we will begin the process of exporting the files to an alternative print site.   Several additional meetings need to occur to work through all of the details, but our hope is that DOTS will be testing this alternative printing site in, say, one LCO per region…  ideally nearby the RCC so your LSC can observe…  either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  It’s not clear at this point whether we will be able to pull everything together that quickly.

    Bottom line is that we are still planning for the LCOs to begin printing assignments for the even numbered AAs Thursday morning…  either through PBOCS or the alternative print site.  At this time, we are assuming all other PBOCS users will also regain access to the system Thursday morning.   We have asked that odd numbered AAs be made available on a flow basis of some sort…  groups of LCOs or regions…  rather than waiting until all reports are generated to make them available for printing. This weekend will be a huge crunch time for the LCOs…  all hands need to be on deck…  as they prepare assignments for all of the even numbered AAs and as many of the odd as possible.

    Please make sure the LCOs are firing on all cylinders with NRFU map printing. That task is outside of PBOCS, so the downtime tomorrow will not be a problem.  It’s really critical to get this job done ASAP, so that the printers in the LCO are not tied up with NRFU maps, and are available for assignment prep.    If you cannot get all NRFU maps done by COB Wednesday, give top priority to the even numbered AAs, so assignment prep can be completed for work headed to the field first thing next week.  An added impetus to the NRFU map printing work is that there is a remote chance that LCOs may be able to start assignment prep for even numbered AAs tomorrow (Wednesday) if we are able to get the alternative print site set up, files exported, systems tested in some LCOs, and instructions prepared.   LCOs which have completed NRFU map printing will be likely candidates for this somewhat unlikely event.

    We can talk more at the RD Conference Call this afternoon, or call me if you have an immediate concern.

    From:
    Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

    To:

    FLD Regional Directors

    Cc:

    FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, FLD Decennial Branch Chiefs, FLD Decennial Assistant Division Chiefs List, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC

    Date:

    04/14/2010 09:48 AM

    Subject:

    PBOCS

    As you may know, PBOCS went down last night.  The 40 LCOs that were scheduled to be ingested did not get ingested.  PBOCS is back up this morning and available for your use, but the concerns about instability remain.

    We must do the following to prepare for NRFU:

    PBOCS will be taken down tonight at 8:00 p.m., and will not be available again until Monday morning, April 19. Hopefully, minimizing the number of users and uses will increase the stability of the system, allowing the full ingest of all LCOs to be completed over the next several days.  As you heard at the Regional Directors’ Conference, this is a critical first step in the process of preparing for NRFU assignment prep.

    DOTS will be sending out a separate notice to you and your automation folks, and each of the Decennial Branch Chiefs will issue ops logs with suggestions and cautions about getting through the next several days.  For example,  it’s critically important not to send completed work to the processing office unless it has been checked out through PBOCS.  If you box up and send in ICRs/MCRs without going through the formal PBOCS check-out process, we will lose the critical linkage with their Group Quarters.   We will be asking you to hold completed work in the office until PBOCS is back up and running.  Of course, work on all operations can and should continue in the field.

    This will be a really important time for the LCOs to stay as organized and systematic as possible…   labeling and sorting piles of completed and pending work in  a way such that, when PBOCS is made available, we can rapidly recover.  If work needs to go to the field while PBOCS is down, the LCOs will need to manually track the assignments, so they know who has what, and when  they got it.  Once PBOCS is made available on Monday, the LCOs will need to key in this information to get the system caught up.

    Thanks for your patience as we work through these challenges.

    From:
    Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

    To:

    fld.regional.directors@census.gov

    Cc:

    fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov” <fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov>, “Barbara M LoPresti” <barbara.m.lopresti@census.gov>, “Chad Nelson” <chad.g.nelson@census.gov>, “fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov” <fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov>

    Date:

    04/08/2010 05:57 PM

    Subject:

    Fw: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.

    We need to shut down PBOCS at 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 9, instead of waiting until midnight.  We had a lengthy discussion today and, as you can imagine, time is a critical commodity.  Lots of work has to be done in preparation for NRFU, and if it means an extension for ETL or delays in check-in of GQE and UE, so be it.

    Call me if you have any questions or just need to vent.  We wouldn’t be doing this full weekend shutdown if it wasn’t really necessary.

      Inactive hide details for Barbara M LoPresti Barbara M LoPresti

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Barbara M LoPresti
    Sent: 04/08/2010 05:02 PM EDT
    To: Brian Monaghan; Chad Nelson; Janet Cummings; Gail Leithauser; Annetta Smith; Michael Thieme; Pamela Mosley; Marilia Matos; Arnold Jackson
    Cc: Thomas McNeal; Curtis Broadway
    Subject: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.
    Brian,
    In the 430 meeting today, Tom and Curtis felt it was best to take the Pbocs system down at 5::00 pm eastern time on Friday, April 9th (tomorrow).
    Please let me and Chad know when you have informed the RDs and then we will get a DOTS message out to the RCCs.
    Thanks
    Barbara


    MyTwoCensus Exclusive: Census Bureau Official Debunks 2010 Census Field Operation Myths

    Monday, March 29th, 2010

    The following piece does not reflect the views of MyTwoCensus.com and was written by a senior Census Bureau official who has requested anonymity (but whose identity has been verified by MyTwoCensus.com):

    With the Census starting to hire for the largest census operation, Non-Response Followup next month, Mr. Stephen Buckner neither denies nor confirms the length of census jobs but says they will last up to several weeks. However, he is defending an agency that has a long history of mismanagement such as the Harris handheld computer debacle, address canvassing cost overruns and group quarters workload overestimation to name a few. His response does hint at many of the assumptions the modeling and analysis branch at headquarters makes:

    Assumption: The average employee will work part time hours (for example 25 hours a week for Group Quarters Advance Visit).

    The decennial census is being conducted in the midst of the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. Many people are desperate for any sort of work even if it is short term. These people will work more than 25 hours a week because they have been out of work for months. They jump on the opportunity with enthusiasm because and this is any sort of a glimmer of hope they’ve seen in months. You work more than 25 hours a week, chances are you’ll finish quicker.

    Assumption: The average Census employee has eighth grade reading, math and map reading skills.

    Due to the high unemployment rate the Census Bureau has attracted very highly educated overqualified employees. Most employees have college degrees and some have advanced degrees. There is no way to measure how quickly the highly educated workforce will work. But they will complete training and understand it much better than those of an eighth grader making for quicker completion of work.

    Assumption: The average Census employee will complete about one non-response interview an hour.


    The Census Bureau has the same cookie cutter production quotas for the local census offices however it does not account for:
    * hard to enumerate areas in urban cities with a large immigrant and illegal population
    * high density housing where travel time between assignments is negligible
    * rural areas where enumerators and listers can get lost, and their vehicles stuck

    Assumption: About 29% of employees won’t qualify for work because of an unfavorable background check. And up to 50% of applicants will either quit or be released from employment.

    This leaves about 71% of employees who are available to be hired. If you factor in job refusal, not showing up for training, not completing training and resignations; the bureau thinks they need to recruit five applicants for every one position and front load each operation with 1.5 times the required staff. When you take millions of highly educated, unemployed Americans who were previously were working they are desperate for work then you have favorable background checks, and people who won’t refuse work, will show up and complete training. And although it is a tough job it pays much better than food service and retail jobs so they probably may not quit as easily as the Census model has them.

    Assumption: The performance evaluation system for Census Bureau managers is purely based on meeting production goals or exceeding them.

    Mr. Buckner says that “we want nothing more than to hire less than what is required to do the job.” This is untrue especially when you consider the following. If manager A finishes ahead of manager B then manager A is the better manager. That is why managers overhire, overstaff because the quicker they finish the better their performance is perceived. So managers maximize their chances for success by hiring the maximum number of people need for the operation.

    Assumption: The more quickly you finish the more work you are given.

    The Census Bureau rewards those who finish quicker with more work. If another area is working slowly they will assign the work to someone else or take the food out of people’s mouths. Managers assume those who finish quicker are better workers and the quicker they finish the better management looks.

    Assumption: Like the military, the census bureau relies on the chain of command and military group think.


    The Census Bureau works just like the military chain of command.  If you question authority then it will result in a dead end for career employees and termination for temporary employees. If you don’t like the group you are deemed not a team player or insubordinate. The managers knew that training all these people during address canvassing was unnecessary but they did so anyways because no matter how stupid the idea sounds the agency teaches you not to question authority and do as you are told. So during address canvassing many managers trained more people than needed and replaced people who turned over although work was ahead of schedule.

    Any business school model (and it doesn’t need to be a Harvard, Wharton one) can tell this is a managerial economic problem. A professor once told me you can solve any managerial economics problem by asking these three questions. One. Who made the mistake? Two. Did they have enough information? Three. Are their incentives in lines with the goals of the company? The answers are respectively: Census Bureau managers, no and no. The Bureau prides itself on collecting high quality data about the nation’s people and economy. However their managers are evaluated not on producing quality work at the lowest cost but on how quickly they can produce it. There is no incentive for coming in at the lowest cost. That is why the Bureau is getting so much bad publicity lately for over hiring, overspending and false pretenses of good short term employment for the millions of Americans desperate to find any sort of work out there.

    In an economy such as this the Census Bureau should do the American people a favor: hire the right amount of people, give them some solid work that pays well and keep them working longer, providing them some hope and inspiration that their federal government cares about them and treat them with the respect they deserve in this time of hardship. Non Response Followup is the Census Bureau’s final chance to make good on their promise to count every person accurately, let 600,000 employees make a paycheck who desperately need money.

    It hurts no one if the Bureau hires less people than what they require because the enumerators are smarter in this census so they will be more productive. If the Bureau under recruits then they save money on advertising, the fewer employees work longer to put food on the table. If they over recruit and over hire then they waste money on recruiting and training, there is a false pretense of work and employees lose hope in an agency already fraught with problems. Under recruiting, hiring less people to work longer and making the most effective use of their employees might actually benefit the census. With all the President is  dealing with such as health care reform and two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq I think the last thing he is worried about is getting the count of Americans delivered to him on December 31st, 2010.

    Census Bureau Press Office Responds To Our Controversial Jobs Post

    Monday, March 1st, 2010

    Last Monday, we published a controversial post about the length of Census Bureau jobs, which we learned from a Census Bureau insider are often-times over-stated. Our question about this issue to the Census Bureau’s public information office was initially met with a very vague response. However, yesterday, we received an elaborate response from Stephen Buckner, who runs the show (so-to-speak) when it comes to the suits of Suitland dealing with the press.

    (Here’s my best description of Stephen in one sentence: Picture Aaron Eckhart’s character Nick Naylor in Thank You For Smoking, but change all of the mumbo-jumbo about cigarettes to the Census Bureau.)

    The following is the unabridged response from Mr. Buckner:

    The length of time a temporary census worker may be employed depends upon the time frame in which they are hired and the operation taking place at that time.

    The skills needed, and number of staff required, vary across our numerous operations in the massive undertaking.   The single largest operation is Non-Response Follow-Up (door-to-door enumeration) from May through July with hiring and training in April.  Over 600,000 persons will be hired for this operation, however the precise number is dependent upon the share of households that mail back their census form in March – April.  We would like nothing more than to be required to hire far less than our planning goals because far more households mailed back their census forms than we have witnessed in prior censuses.

    Our hiring process has to recruit a large pool of applicants so that we are prepared for a range of response rates across the entire country.  We know from experience some areas will need many more workers than other parts of the country and we are using historical data to help be prepared for these variations.   Other major operations for which we recruit temporary employees include the Update/Leave operation, (the hand delivery of questionnaires to 12 million housing units in March), staffing Questionnaire Assistance Centers from Feb 26 to Apr 19, staffing Be Counted Sites from Mar 19 to Apr 19, and staffing Telephone Questionnaire Assistance from Feb 25 to July 30.

    The Census Bureau builds a recruiting pool of applicants in order to have readily available and qualified workers for all operations.  These individual operations take place over a number of months, but people are not hired to work from start to end on all operations.  Most jobs last only a few weeks, and sometimes less if there is not a large workload in a particular area.  It is difficult to explain these complexities in a brief recruiting message or advertisement, especially in this economy.  During our interview and training process, we try to stress that we are not hiring a workforce to be in place from beginning to end of all of our operations.  The length of time temporary employees may serve is also dependent upon the efficiency of the total workforce in any given operation or location.   If we recruit and hire a more experienced and qualified workforce that completes tasks at rates higher than projected, then they are likely to be employed for shorter periods.

    Our regional and local census offices monitor recruiting at the census tract level in order to make every effort to recruit from the neighborhood where the work is to be done.  In the 2010 Census we are able to focus in on those hard-to-recruit tracts because it has taken less effort to recruit in the other tracts.   We’ve never done such detailed tracking before in prior censuses.

    Most 2010 Census jobs are temporary and last up to several weeks.  It is correct that some jobs will last 8 months.  This refers to management positions in Local Census Offices which began opening last fall.  However, there are far fewer of these positions in comparison to field jobs described above.