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Up for the count: Federal government offers up to 1,500 temporary jobs in the Santa Clarita Valley

Posted: January 6, 2010 9:25 p.m.
Updated: January 7, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Dave Simon, manager of the Santa Clarita Census Bureau office, speaks during the open house Wednesday.

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Having moved to the United States from the Ivory Coast just two years ago, Emrin Bodian, 18, wanted a job that would let him explore the Santa Clarita Valley.

When he heard from his dad that the Census Bureau's new office in Valencia was hiring people to help conduct the 2010 census, Bodian, who attends College of the Canyons, said he found the job he was looking for.

"I thought working for them would be a good opportunity for me to get to know the community here," Bodian said.

The $17-an-hour pay doesn't hurt, either.

Valencia's census office opened Wednesday and will hire 1,000 to 1,500 people from across the valley to help with the national count, said Santa Clarita's census office manager Dave Simon. Bodian was one of nearly 150 job seekers who signed up with census recruiters at the event.

The constitution requires the government to collect census data every 10 years. The statistical information it provides determines where more than $400 million of federal money is spent each year for building schools, hospitals, bridges, tunnels and other crucial infrastructure, said Sandra Alvarado, spokeswoman for the Census Bureau's Los Angeles Regional Census Center.

The Los Angeles region manages 37 local offices across Southern California as well as two offices in Hawaii, she said.

Anyone hired to help conduct the census must submit to a background check, complete a multiple-choice test that checks applicants' math and reading skills and take an oath swearing that they will not divulge personal information they may collect from citizens, Alvarado said.

Protecting people's privacy is one of the bureau's primary concerns, she said. If an employee doesn't protect a person's identity, the employee can be sentenced to five years in prison and fined $250,000, Alvarado said.

The census doesn't ask for social security numbers or whether a person is a legal citizen, she said. It is illegal for the census bureau to give its information to the IRS or immigration services, Alvarado said.

Making sure everyone feels comfortable being counted for the census is crucial, Alvarado said. In March, a questionnaire will be mailed to every address in the nation, she said. The questionnaires asks residents 10 questions, including their ethnicity, age and the number of people living in their home.

Los Angeles County receives money based on how large the population is, she said. More people means the state gets more money, so getting an accurate count of everyone living in Santa Clarita, and across the state, is crucial, Alvarado said.

Census data is also used to re-shuffle the political deck. Census statistics are used for redistricting the state and determine the number of electoral votes California will receive in the 2012 presidential election.

The undertaking is massive and takes years to organize, Alvarado said. Months ago, census bureau workers began using GPS computers to canvass every house in Los Angeles County, including Santa Clarita, Simon said.

The census bureau has collected hundreds of millions of addresses nationally, Alvarado said

"We don't care about your legal status or financial history or if you have a criminal background," Alvarado said. "The Constitution obligates us to count everyone in the community."

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