The San Antonio Area Census Office's Southeast Side location, at 1933 Dollarhide Ave., opened in January. The other two offices are scheduled to open in August. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The San Antonio Area Census Office is hiring temporary office and field workers in preparation for the 2020 United States census.

Each office will be staffed by 40 to 50 workers and a field staff that will grow to about 1,500 workers by next spring when the census begins, according to Dennis Johnson, the U.S. Census Bureau’s deputy regional director for the 12-state region that includes Texas.

The Census Bureau said in a 2018 news release it worried that in an economy with historically low unemployment, finding enough field workers may be difficult. The pay range for office and field workers is $14 to $17.50 per hour.

Bilingual workers are especially sought after, Census Bureau officials said. U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old and have a valid Social Security number can apply online.

The local offices will recruit through social media, job fairs, and advertising to get the word out.

“We have remote census offices that handle the local operations, but one of our big pushes is to hire people locally to count their neighbors,” said Jess Avian, assistant regional census manager for South Texas. “We need to get the word out about these jobs so we can have the people we need to get this done.”

The three local offices are located on the North Side, Southeast Side, and West Side of San Antonio.

The Southeast Side office opened in January to start address canvassing. During this process, census collectors confirm the addresses they have listed. The other two offices are scheduled to open in August to support address canvassing and recruitment.

“The reason that we have three offices is because we have a mobile and diverse population,” Avian said. “It’s important when we place the office; their geographies are then based upon housing units and the population.”

Residents will receive invitations to fill out the census form in mid-March. The Census Bureau’s goal is to maximize the number of people responding to the census, Johnson said.

“The most employees will be needed to assist households to respond to the census that are not able to or have not responded to the census on the internet, by telephone, or on paper,” Johnson said. “This operation will take place starting in May 2020 and end in July 2020.”

In 2010, the census was done fully on paper, but this year participants will have an option to participate in the census on the Census Bureau’s website. The mailed invitations will have an individual census ID code to access the questions through a secure online network.

“With technology, we are going to make it easy for people to respond in any location,” Avian said. “Of course, if they don’t do any of that, they will get a paper questionnaire to send in.”

The Census Bureau has used this technology for other surveys, but the 2020 census represents its largest test. Many of those hired will be assigned to work with this software, Avian said. The Census Bureau will provide technical training.

“As you expect with anything that involves technology, you are always going to have some things that you need to work out,” Avian said. “We are on track, the train has left the station, and we are headed to 2020.”

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Laura Morales

Laura Morales is a freshman studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a contributor to The Daily Texan.