WASHINGTON - The Census Bureau should look to the long-term unemployed when it staffs the 2010 census, a group of Senate Democrats said Wednesday.
The census "is providing a once-in-a-decade opportunity to put a good number of Americans back to work," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The Census Bureau responded that "in these difficult times, we've made it a priority to hire reliable people who need jobs." It said the agency has worked with the Labor Department to recruit people looking for work and has partnered regionally and locally with one-stop employment centers. The bureau said it has also worked with state and local governments to ensure that temporary census workers not lose certain benefits.
Schumer and three other senators wrote Commerce Secretary Gary Locke urging that the bureau target the long-term jobless as much as possible when it temporarily employs some 1.4 million next year for the census.
"These jobless Americans are exhausting their unemployment insurance benefits in the weeks and months ahead, and the administration should do everything in its power to use federal employment opportunities to help them," wrote the senators, including Mark Begich of Alaska, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Census jobs, ranging from data processing to canvassing neighborhoods, are expected to pay between $10 and $20 an hour.
The senators said the Census Bureau should coordinate with the Labor Department to recruit people at unemployment centers.