Nassau and Suffolk counties' four census offices could provide an estimated 8,000 temporary jobs as the U.S. Census Bureau gears up for its once-a-decade count of the nation's population next year.
That's according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is urging the bureau to steer its job recruitment efforts toward the unemployed.
The bureau was "very positive" about this approach in preliminary talks, Schumer said in an interview Wednesday.
Census officials confirmed that in a statement. "In these difficult times, we've made it a priority to hire reliable people who need jobs," the bureau said. "As the hiring process ramps up next year, we look forward to working with Congress to build on the extensive strategies already well under way to put unemployed people to work in service to the nation."
Schumer announced Wednesday that he and several U.S. Senate colleagues have written Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who oversees the Census Bureau, to "actively recruit" at unemployment offices across the country.
The bureau is accepting applications for a wide range of temporary jobs as it prepares to hire 1.4 million census workers for next year's census - 97,000 in New York State alone. Pay starts at $18 an hour in the downstate New York and Long Island areas, according to the bureau.
"The census gives us an opportunity to create more jobs and help these people," Schumer said in a conference call with reporters. "We want the census to advertise at unemployment centers," Schumer said, so "those on the brink of losing [unemployment] benefits will have a fighting chance to get back in the workforce."
The Dec. 2 letter to Locke - from Schumer and Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire - notes the "challenging economic times that have taken their toll on American workers" who have lost jobs, and urges the administration to do "everything in its power to use federal employment opportunities to help them."
Schumer urged census officials to make job applications available at employment offices, and even have census staff on hand to conduct interviews.
He added the census application process now requires people to obtain an application from the bureau's Web site or go to a census regional office, which not everyone in need of work may be able to do.
But the bureau indicated it must follow certain guidelines that might prevent it from doing all that Schumer suggested. It already has partnerships with employment centers, local governments and others to distribute information about census job opportunities.
But it also requires prospective applicants to first take a screening test, a requirement that makes it unlikely the bureau will be able to distribute applications at employment agencies.