Early work for census under way in midstate

The federal government will spend an estimated $391 million nationwide to knock on doors and verify addresses before sending U.S. Census surveys out next year by mail.

Census workers have been visiting homes throughout Middle Georgia in recent months, and this “address canvassing” should be wrapping up here in a few weeks, according to Edward Davis, a census coordinator for the Atlanta region, which includes Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

Local workers were hired to do the canvassing prior to the once-a-decade census count, which is used to draw election districts and divvy up federal funding. Davis said not everyone in Middle Georgia will get a knock on their door, only people for whom the census needs to verify addresses.

Nationally this process will cost an estimated $391 million, Davis said. A figure for Georgia was not available. Davis said the total budget for the 2010 Census, which is expected to collect information on more than 300 million Americans, will be between $14 billion and $15 billion.

About 1.4 million people have been or will be hired to complete the 2010 census, Davis said.

About 25,000 of those will be in Georgia, he said.

Once addresses are verified, the U.S. Census Bureau will be ready to mail surveys to every known address in America. Those should go out in March 2010, and the bureau hopes people will return them by April 1, Davis said.

People who return the surveys will be done, Davis said. Those who don’t will likely get a personal visit from a census worker in what the bureau calls its “non-response follow-up campaign,” Davis said.

The Census Bureau works with the U.S. Postal Service to develop a list of addresses, but canvassing is needed prior to the bureau sending out surveys for several reasons, Davis said.

Not everyone gets mail at their home, using a post office box instead, he noted.

Canvassers also record the Global Positioning System location of homes visited to be sure what city or county the home is located in, Davis said.

That’s a key piece of data when the census numbers are crunched. The GPS coordinates will also help census workers find the home next year if a follow-up visit is needed, he said.

“The address canvassing operation is conducted to further update our list by checking the list we have against the actual living quarters now existing ‘on the ground,’ and to verify the geographic information on each place,” Davis said in an e-mail to The Telegraph.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.