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More census workers needed on Flathead Reservation

Beginning in mid-March, census takers will be visiting every home on the Flathead Reservation. More than 300 area residents have already tested and qualified for census jobs, but there are still plenty of the temporary positions available, U.S. Census Bureau recruiting assistant Etta Moore said.

Flathead Reservation residents have the opportunity to join what the Census Bureau calls the “largest domestic mobilization our nation undertakes,” with jobs as census takers/enumerators, crew leaders, crew leader assistants, census clerks and couriers. The positions are all paid at an hourly rate, and workers receive mileage compensation at 55 cents per mile. To qualify for a census job, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen 18 or older; have a valid Social Security number and driver’s license; pass a written test of basic skills and a background check; and be able to attend four days of paid training. 

While the employment testing is not rigorous, and merely asks applicants to demonstrate their clerical, reading, number, organizational and interpretive/evaluative skills, hiring reliable people is crucial to carrying out the nation’s 23rd census, Moore emphasized. 

“The main focus is that we want qualified, conscientious people that will really do a good job,” she explained.

For this census, all surveys on the Flathead Reservation will be done door-to-door, face-to-face with respondents, Moore said. the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council chose this method in hopes that it will be more effective than mail-in responses in getting an accurate count of the Reservation’s population, CSKT spokesman Rob McDonald noted. the Tribe has also hired a census liaison to help familiarize tribal members with the census-taking process and prepare people for the door-to-door visits. An accurate census is important for a number of reasons, Moore said, not the least of which is the allocation of federal dollars to states and communities based in part on census population data.

“Historically, there’s been an undercount of tribal peoples, not just here, but all over the country,” McDonald explained. “An undercount leads to levels of under-support.”

Of course, the fundamental reason the U.S. census was created is to empower the people — U.S. House seats are allocated among the 50 states based on census data, and states like Montana that have only one seat could find that they’ve grown in population enough to gain more representation.

“(With an accurate count,) we could potentially get our congressman back,” Moore said.

“We applaud the census efforts to ensure a more complete count,” CSKT Chairman Bud Moran added. “Councilman Steve Lozar has offered his voice in a number of public service announcements on the radio, (and) there will be more efforts to come in terms of outreach and public education.”

Several census job fairs will be held around Lake County during the next few weeks. 

Moore encouraged anyone who’s interested in the census jobs to attend a fair and take the employment test. Even if you think you can’t pass the test or might have a problem on the background check, “do the test anyway, because it depends case by case,” Moore said.

One major concern potential applicants have is whether taking a census job will affect their ability to receive federal benefits such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Social Security, SSI (Supplemental Security Income), unemployment or food stamps, Moore noted. 

Working for the census will not affect TANF and probably will not impact food stamps, but will affect SSI and SSD benefits, Moore said. 

“The recommendation is that people check with case workers or whoever their contact is (to see if their benefits will be affected by census income),” Moore said.

For more information on census jobs and local testing sites and times, call 406-214-3174.

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