SHAHEEN, SCHUMER, BEGICH, MERKLEY URGE CENSUS BUREAU TO RECRUIT OUT-OF-WORK AMERICANS AT UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICES AS AGENCY SEEKS TO FILL ONE MILLION JOBS TO HELP WITH NATIONWIDE HEAD-COUNT

In Letter To Obama Administration, Senators Urge That Hiring Preference For Sought-After Positions Be Given To Jobless Americans Whose Unemployment Benefits Are Running Out Census Organizers, In Need Of Canvassers and Data Processors, Began Accepting Applications Last Month Because of Huge Demand Due To Recession, Agency Cancelled Publicity Campaign To Advertise Jobs—Senators Propose Redirecting Promotional Funds To Establish On-The-Ground Recruiting Presence At Unemployment Offices Across Cou

December 02, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC-As the U.S. Census Bureau begins to fill over 1 million new jobs ahead of next year's nationwide head-count, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) urged the Obama administration Wednesday to give a hiring preference to out-of-work Americans and to actively recruit these individuals at unemployment offices across the country.

Last month, the federal government began accepting applications for a wide range of temporary jobs to help perform the huge logistical task, repeated once every decade, of counting the nation's population. The types of tasks range from data processing to canvassing neighborhoods to knock on the doors of households that fail to fill out a standardized form. Federal officials expect the jobs to pay between 10 and 20 dollars per hour.

"New Hampshire's unemployed workers are desperate to get back to work but face one of the worst job markets in decades," said Shaheen.  "Every day that jobless Americans look for work, they are hopeful that will be the day they catch a break.  The federal government's hiring of one million workers could be that break for many of our nation's long-term unemployed workers, and I hope the Census Bureau will do whatever they can to reach these workers so that they may take advantage of this opportunity."

"The census is providing a once-in-a-decade opportunity to put a good number of Americans back to work," Schumer said. "It is a natural fit to publicize these jobs opportunities in the places where unemployed Americans go to collect their benefits and find work. This will help get the word out and make the application process easier for those who could use the work the most."

"Alaskans take great pride in being counted every decade for the census and 2010 will allow us the bonus of putting job seeking Alaskans to work," Sen. Begich said. "Too many families and individuals in Alaska, who have been actively searching for work, face an uncertain future as their unemployment benefits near conclusion. We should capitalize on the unique opportunity the census provides to put people to work as we aim to count every head in Alaska's communities which represent many of America's most remote regions."

"We have a chance to put as many as a million Americans back to work and we need to seize that opportunity," said Merkley.  "I can't think of a better place for the Census Bureau to hire people than at unemployment centers around the country, where countless Americans are struggling to find a job and provide for their families."

In these tough economic times, demand for the jobs has already been overwhelming. In fact, the Census Bureau has cancelled a publicity campaign that it usually relies on to advertise the positions. Given this intense competition for a finite number of jobs, the senators are urging the Census Bureau to prioritize applicants who have been out of work for an extended period of time, particularly those at risk of losing their unemployment benefits in the near term. The senators proposed that the Census Bureau centralize its recruitment efforts at the nation's unemployment offices in order to publicize the job opportunities for those most in need of work.

The senators urged the Census Bureau to coordinate with the Labor Department to establish an increased presence at unemployment centers. This presence could include: making informational materials about the hiring program available on-site; having office workers hand-distribute job applications to individuals when they show up to collect, or apply for, benefits; deploying Census Bureau personnel to recruit individuals in-person or even, where possible, administering the background checks that are a prerequisite for the hiring program at these facilities. Any costs for this recruitment effort could be covered with the funds that would otherwise have been put towards the publicity campaign that was recently cancelled, the senators suggested.

A copy of the senators' letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, whose agency oversees the Census Bureau, appears below.

December 2, 2009

The Honorable Gary Locke

Secretary of Commerce

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20230-0001

Dear Secretary Locke,

We write to urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that the positions being filled for the fiscal year 2010 Census are targeted as much as possible to the nation's long-term unemployed.  As you are aware, we are facing challenging economic times that have taken their toll on American workers as more and more of them find themselves unemployed for extended periods of time.  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.

As you know, the Bureau is in the process of hiring a core team of people for each Census office, and will then hire potentially more than a million temporary workers in early 2010 to follow-up on surveys that have been mailed to American households.  Our understanding is that the application and recruitment process for these positions began just in the last week or two.  Given that the reported 1.4 million in new temporary Census jobs people represents 17 percent of workers currently unemployed, we are writing to you to urge you to target the long-term unemployed for filling these positions in the coming months.

Despite the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act's success in sustaining between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs in the third quarter, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the unemployment rate remains high.  It seems to us that the number of temporary jobs created by the 2010 Census presents an interesting opportunity to help a significant number of the long-term unemployed, thereby allowing them to shore up their savings or earn a paycheck before their unemployment benefits expire. This subpopulation could be targeted by partnering with the Department of Labor to advertise and provide applications for Census jobs at unemployment offices across the nation in order to publicize the job opportunities for those most in need of work.

According to published news reports, the Census Bureau has already canceled its national advertising campaign for temporary jobs because demand for the positions is so high.  If any additional funds are needed for such a recruitment effort, the funds that had been set aside for the advertising campaign could be used for that purpose.

Specifically, we urge the Census Bureau to coordinate with the Labor Department to establish an increased presence at unemployment centers.  This presence could include: making informational materials about the hiring program available on-site; having office workers hand-distribute job applications to individuals when they show up to collect, or apply for, benefits; deploying Census Bureau personnel to recruit individuals in-person or even, where possible, conducting the interviews that occur prior to hiring at these facilities. Any costs for this recruitment effort could be covered with the funds that would otherwise have been put towards the publicity campaign that was recently cancelled.

Mr. Secretary, the long-term unemployed are in the most need of jobs and assistance over the coming weeks, as benefits for many of them will be running out on December 31.  We urge you to do whatever you can to ensure that these workers are targeted by the Census Bureau's recruitment effort in the coming weeks.

Sincerely,

Senator Jeanne Shaheen                      

Senator Charles E. Schumer                             

Senator Mark Begich 

Senator Jeff Merkley          

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