Wanted: Census ambassadors for Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The big count is nearly upon us.

Next year, people will get a U.S. census form in the mail. If they don’t fill it out, they might get a knock at the door.

In Grand Rapids, concerns of an undercount have prompted city officials to reach out to the community to convince them to take the census.

The city is hiring five people, including four census ambassadors who will head to the neighborhoods to try to get a more accurate count.

“They’re talking to people about what is this and why it’s important,” said Lou Canfield, the city’s development center manager. “(We want) Somebody who knows the neighborhood well. They understand what its interests and concerns are. They know who to talk to.”

The census ambassadors will concentrate their effort in about a dozen Grand Rapids neighborhoods, including Baxter, Garfield Park, Heartside, John Ball (South West Area Neighbors/John Ball Area Neighbors), Madison (Seeds of Promise), Oakdale, Roosevelt Park, South East Community and West Grand.

“The idea is to focus resources on neighborhoods where we think response tends to be lower,” Canfield said.

It’s part of a $100,000 effort by the city to count as many people as possible.

Canfield says the program should more than pay for itself. The census determines how many representatives a state gets in Congress and where federal dollars get spent.

For Grand Rapids, that adds up to about $1,800 for every person counted.

“And that just doesn’t go to the city. It goes to things like health centers, schools. It goes to nutrition, all kinds of services that are vital for people in our community,” Canfield said. “It doesn’t take many people opting out to add up to $100,000.”

While convincing people to hand over their information to the government has never been an easy task, there’s a concern this decade’s count may be even more difficult — especially in immigrant communities.

“It’s very clear that an individual’s census information cannot be released outside of the census bureau,” Canfield said. “Not to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), not to local law enforcement. Not to anybody else.”

The ambassadors will work six to 12 hours a week and earn $12 to $14 per hour, depending on experience and Spanish proficiency. Work hours are flexible and some evenings and weekends are required.

The deadline to apply is June 28. To apply, send a resume and cover letter to Canfield at lcanfield@grcity.us.

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