The U.S. Census Bureau is struggling to hire enough people in New Hampshire to help with the once-in-a-decade population count later this year.
Officials say the Bureau had hoped to get 13,000 applicants for census jobs in New Hampshire. But it's only gotten half of that, putting New Hampshire at risk of being more under-staffed than much of the country.
New Hampshire gets an estimated $3.7 billion from the federal government each year based on census data. Ken Gallager, a planner with the New Hampshire Office of Strategic Initiatives who is helping to coordinate census efforts, said it's crucial for the state to have the staff and resources to get an accurate count.
But New Hampshire's low unemployment rate and strong economy are making it hard to recruit workers.
“Ten years ago, it was the opposite situation," Gallager said. "They had no problem meeting their recruitment goals at that point. [Now] they’ve had to increase their hourly rate up to $20 an hour.”
The census officially kicks off in April, and census workers will be knocking on doors through July.
Gallager said in spite of the challenge recruiting workers, organizations across the state are coordinating efforts to ensure residents get counted. In addition to the state’s Census Complete Count Committee, 15 cities and towns have established complete count committees. A group of New Hampshire non-profit organizations is also offering grants to groups that want to help get historically overlooked residents counted in the census.
“We’re trying to increase the amount of outreach and organizing that's going on, especially to areas with what we're calling 'hard to count' populations," Gallager said.
Those groups include low-income communities in Manchester, Nashua, Concord, Claremont, and the North Country; immigrants and refugees; young children; college students, and residents of rural areas with limited internet access.
A link to the mini-grant application can be found here.