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U.S. Census Bureau Faces Two Challenges In Ky.: Count Everyone And Find Enough Counters

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Josh James
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WUKY

The U.S. Census Bureau is opening its Lexington office as it gears up for the constitutionally-mandated, once-a-decade national head count. At the same time, city officials are boosting outreach to traditionally undercounted populations.

Census forms will be distributed to every household by April 1st, after which residents will have several options to respond: online, over the phone, or through regular mail. If officials don’t receive a response, that’s when you might hear a knock at the door.

Social Services Commissioner Chris Ford says he’s been working with dozens of city leaders to ensure the census reaches communities that have been harder to count: "minority groups, the African-American population, particularly African-American men, children under the age of five, college students, and our senior population."

It’s a list that also includes immigrants, who could be wary of the process. The Trump administration fought unsuccessfully to include a citizenship question on the survey this year, promising to use other means to obtain information about the citizenship status of everyone living in the United States. 

Finding enough census-takers is also no easy feat.

"We don't have nearly enough right now because the economy's good, the unemployment rate is down, and people have other priorities," says John Shotwell, manager of the Lexington-area census office.

Shotwell says thousands have been recruited, but many end up ultimately turning down the job.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are allocated to state and local governments based on census data – affecting everything from Medicaid to the scouting of new school locations to road paving projects.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.