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 ‘Stimulus’

Census Bureau official criticizes $1.6 billion savings

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

An anonymous Census Bureau official submitted the following to MyTwoCensus.com:

Last week Commerce Secretary Locke touted the Census Bureau’s $1.6 billion cost savings which they will return to the Treasury.  But I agree with congressman Issa that the touting of 1.6 billion returned to the Treasury is simply a “smoke and mirrors budget gimmickry that the American people have come to expect from the federal government.”

The bureau’s incompetency was saved by luck. There were no natural disasters and the recession produced a workforce that was otherwise unparalleled. About $800 million were in unspent funds set aside for hurricanes, floods and earthquakes which there were none. It is analogous to as if I lent you $10 and you returned it when it was not needed.

But the workforce productivity that beat expectations came from alleged poor management practices and labor and wage violations.
The most common complaint is the overtime it denied field, office staff and LCO managers. There were many office and field staff who worked many hours and never submitted time sheets for fear of termination in the worst employment market since the Great Depression.
The report also fails to mention that the first few operations (address canvassing, groups quarters validation) were overstaffed and thousands of employees were trained and got either no work or less than a week’s work.
The Census Bureau also entered into poor contracts such as the Harris handheld computers and PBOCS. And last but not least the supplies and paper contracts it entered into which produced enormous amounts of waste. There are entire rooms of unused office supplies (rubber bands, erasers, pencils, file folders) and preprinted manuals and administrative forms in huge quantities that are quietly being made to disappear. We’re not talking boxes, we are talking hundreds to thousands of boxes per LCO. The counter argument was any operation would of generated office waste but any census employee who works in the office who packed the shipping trucks knows exactly what I am talking about.
Robert Groves should have a press conference about what they are doing with the truckloads of unused supplies and whether they are returning those to the contractor for a refund. Perhaps the Inspector General should do an audit over the truckloads and pallets that are being quietly thrown out. In order to hide this waste some managers are threatening employees who document this with immediate termination.
I am optimistic that in the months after the census ends the truth will come out. In retrospect had the Census entered into better IT contracts, had there there not been problems with PBOCS, had they better estimated simply the amount of rubber bands every office would need they could have saved them themselves possibly at least another billion.

In Focus: How your $timulus package money is being $pent by the Cen$u$ Bureau

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

H/t to Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporting outlet Pro Publica for sharing the following data with us. Here are some screen captures that depict how your taxpayer dollars are being spent (…interestingly, Census Bureau Communications Director Steve Jost’s former boss Carolyn Maloney represents New York City and the areas where $125,000,000 in stimulus money is headed in communications contracts!). The amount of money being spent on partnership support is particularly disturbing as I have received multiple reports of partnership materials being DISCARDED by the palette!

New York Times Cover Story Has It Wrong…

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

The New York Times dropped the ball this time. As we have already learned, and the Times acknowledged, the average 2010 Census job lasts for six weeks, which doesn’t create any form of economic stability. Next time, try to find more than one mouthpiece from Moody’s to give a quote that justifies an unremarkable claim… Anyway, here’s the article:

By Michael Luo

Next year’s census will not only count people, it will also put money in millions of pockets and potentially create a well-timed economic spark.

Not in more than a half-century has the United States census been conducted amid such high rates of joblessness. The 1.2 million census-taking jobs may be temporary, but they pay well, and economists say they will provide a significant lift.

The jobs will amount to a $2.3 billion injection into the economy at a critical juncture, a bridge between the moment when many economists believe the private sector will finally stop shedding jobs and when it ultimately begins to add them.

“These are real jobs with good solid hourly pay,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com.

Mr. Zandi added: “It’s a form of stimulus. It’s like infrastructure spending, or W.P.A. in the Depression. It effectively does the same thing. It’s not on the same scale, but it is large enough, and it will make a difference.”

Recruiting is just beginning for the jobs. The Census Bureau began adding temporary offices across the country in the fall and has recently been holding open houses to encourage people to sign up for a half-hour test that is the first step to a job. It has also set up a Web site with information for job seekers. About 13,000 workers were hired this month.

The peak of the bureau’s hiring, however, will be in late April and early May when about 800,000 people are expected to be on its payroll, most of them as field workers, knocking on doors to follow up with households that did not return census forms mailed in March. The positions vary in length and pay, but the average job is 20 hours a week for six weeks, paying $10 to $25 an hour.

Rebecca Blank, the under secretary for economic affairs at the Department of Commerce, whose responsibilities include the Census Bureau, was cautious about the ultimate impact on the monthly unemployment rate, because of a variety of complicating factors in how it is calculated.

“My guess is it’s going to be less than one-half of 1 percent,” Ms. Blank said.

Nevertheless, the boost to total employment nationwide, she said, will be significant. And the timing, in some ways, could not be better.

Mr. Zandi, along with many other economists, believes the nation will stop shedding jobs in the spring, and by the time these census jobs wind down over the summer, the private sector will be poised to begin adding jobs again.

“When we look back historically, the census will mark the end of the downdraft of employment,” he said.

Census officials across the country, however, sounded a note of caution for those desperate for the temporary jobs. Many may wind up being turned away. In part, that is because of the extraordinary demand during a smaller spate of earlier census hiring.

The bureau hired about 140,000 people this year for its address canvassing campaign, in which workers walked block by block to make sure the government’s address lists and maps were updated.

Lee Ann Morning, office manager of the bureau’s Denver office, said her staff was caught off guard after an open house last December that received some news coverage.

Every phone in the office was ringing, and additional staff members were called in to handle the volume. Hundreds of calls rolled over to voicemail, which quickly filled up. Many callers were unable to get through.

“It was that kind of overwhelming response,” Ms. Morning said.

Similar scenes across the country surprised census officials. Besides the volume, the caliber of the applicants was unprecedented.

“We saw certainly college degrees, master’s degrees, Ph.D.’s, doctors, all kinds of people you wouldn’t think would be looking for a temporary part-time position,” Ms. Morning said.

The Census Bureau had planned on recruiting 700,000 applicants by April for address canvassing. It wound up getting 1.2 million by early February, prompting officials to mostly call off recruiting across the country. The deluge left them with databases already bursting with recruits, especially in large metropolitan areas.

“We’re trying not to give the public out there a false sense there’s all these jobs out there,” said Tony Farthing, the bureau’s New York regional director, who is being especially cautious in his area about advertising too widely.

The need varies across the country, depending on geography, the local unemployment rate and other considerations. In many areas, especially rural and urban ones, the bureau still needs to recruit aggressively. One of its top priorities is hiring from the communities where census takers will be working, making sure they are familiar with its nuances and even speak the language.

There is a greater need for workers in areas where the mail-in response rate to the census form has traditionally been lower. So in many areas where there may be the most interest in census jobs, like certain suburbs, the need might be lower.

“The interest will not match perfectly with where you believe the work is going to be,” said Dwight Dean, the Detroit regional director for the bureau.

There is little doubt, however, that jobs will affect those in need. Mina Lopez, 43, of Chandler, Ariz., was laid off in March 2008 from her position as a human resources specialist when Arizona State University slashed its budget.

Ms. Lopez, a single of mother of three who holds two master’s degrees, depleted her savings and was forced to hold garage sales every other week to raise cash.

But she landed a part-time $15-an-hour census position last April, as part of the bureau’s address canvassing campaign. It lasted only five weeks but helped arrest her financial freefall. She landed another part-time census position shortly after that and was eventually promoted to be an assistant manager for administration in the Phoenix office, making $19.25 an hour.

“It’s saved me and given me hope that I’m going to dig out of this hole,” she said.

Stimulus $$ At Work: 2,200+ New Census Bureau Hires

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

The following is a press release from the U.S. Census Bureau:

WASHINGTON, July 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that it met the July 1, 2009 deadline to create more than 2,200 new jobs across the country. Funding for the positions was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The new employees will support the agency’s 2010 Census partnership program.

Under the Recovery Act, the Census Bureau received $1 billion in funding, $120 million of which was used to create the new positions. The remaining funds were directed to other critical 2010 Census operations, including expanding the 2010 Census communications and advertising campaign.

“The U.S. Census Bureau has moved quickly to create these much-needed jobs,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “This new staff will perform vital work at the local level with special emphasis on getting hard-to-count communities to participate in the 2010 Census.”

There are now more than 2,900 personnel in 12 regional offices working on the 2010 Census partnership program. The diverse staff speaks 95 languages and will work with thousands of governmental entities, community organizations and the private sector to raise awareness about the 2010 Census.

The new jobs created will last through the summer of 2010, when 2010 Census outreach activities are completed.

Census in the CNMI begs the question: What is the CNMI?

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Few people remember that America governs offshore territories other than vacation favorite Puerto Rico. One such territory is the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the South Pacific, population 88,662 (so long as the Census Bureau got it right last time…). Supported primarily by its tourism industry, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands receives a significant amount of annual aid from America. The Saipan Tribune (the Mariana’s daily newspaper) just reported that the Census Bureau will be allocating $4.6 million for census-taking efforts in 2010, a 31% increase over the $3.5 million for Census 2000. Those are your tax dollars and stimulus money hard at work…10,000 miles away. Here’s the full story:

The CNMI’s proposed budget for the 2010 census is approximately $4.6 million, a 31 percent increase from roughly $3.5 million for Census 2000, according to the Department of Commerce.

John Blanco, director of Commerce’s Central Statistics Division, told Saipan Tribune yesterday that although the money has yet to arrive, preliminary planning has already begun between CSD and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The census is a count of everyone residing in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the CNMI and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Census 2000 put the CNMI’s population count at 69,221, from only 43,345 during Census 1990.

The first Census was conducted in 1790 and has been carried out every 10 years since then.

In the CNMI and elsewhere in the nation, Census 2010 day is set for April 1, 2010.

Blanco said Commerce is expected to hire the managerial team by Oct. 1, consisting of some 17 positions that include a local census office manager, an assistant manager for field operations, a partnership/media specialist, an assistant manager for office operations and an assistant manager for administration.

“The bulk of the hires, though, which will number around 300 strong at its peak, will not occur until early in 2010,” Blanco said.

When the Census 2010 team reaches full swing, it expects to have 242 field staff, consisting of enumerators, crew leaders, crew leader assistants and field operation supervisors hitting the field by April 1, 2010.

The 178 enumerators will begin training on March 22, 2010.

Blanco said that now more than ever, the CNMI is in need of current statistical data besides the federal government requirements that a census be conducted.

“Our own public and private sectors have been clamoring for more recent population data, given the tremendous turn of events we have witnessed since the last decennial census. Also, given that the CNMI was unable to conduct its own mid-decade census back in 2005 due mostly to budget constraints, this full census of the Northern Marianas is, for all intents and purposes, long overdue and greatly welcomed,” he said.

Census information helps local and federal leaders to make more informed decisions. Businesses rely on the data to gauge the investment climate of the CNMI, or to decide whether the population of a village can support the opening of a business in their respective communities. Grant writers use census information in their respective papers.

“This is just a few of the many reasons why the census is so important not only to our nation, but our islands as well,” Blanco added.