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NEW HAVEN, CT—Megan McKenney had a very straightforward answer when she was asked why she was applying for a job as a Census Bureau worker.

“I’m a theater kid,” McKenney, a recent college graduate, said Wednesday.

“But in the meantime, I need to pay the bills while pursuing my dream,” McKenney said. “And besides,” she added, “the pay for these jobs is double what I was making at my last job at the diner.”

The pay for Census Bureau workers in Connecticut was recently hiked – those working will earn between $23 and $25 an hour – in an effort to give a boost to recruitment efforts.

McKenney said she realizes there might be a certain stigma that goes with Census jobs – that they aren’t a lot of fun – people not answering doors, or slamming doors in your face, etc.

“But I think it could be fun,” McKenney said. “I’m an outgoing person that doesn’t mind talking to people.”

Census and Connecticut officials are doing everything they can, including hiking the pay of those gathering the data, to make sure the state has enough workers to handle the cumbersome chore.

The timeline for the 2020 Census begins March 12 with the first of a series of mailings inviting residents to participate in the Census.

On Wednesday, U. S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro joined Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, State Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, other state legislators and members of the New Haven Board of Alders to try give the initiative a kickstart.

A complete count of everyone living in Connecticut is critical, officials state because census data points are used to determine how billions of dollars in federal funding are distributed for programs like Medicare, Head Start, School Lunch, child care, roads, and grants to community organizations.

Overall, Connecticut receives nearly $11 billion in federal funding a year for such programs. As a result, state officials are trying to ensure that the state finds and documents each and every one of its residents.

Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie photo

Connecticut’s current population is 3,565,287, according to Census Bureau figures.

The effort to count residents includes enlisting the help of chambers of commerce, pastors, labor organizations, community health centers, businesses and the NAACP that are part of well over 125 local town committees that are involved in the counting.

The jobs open are varied. Some Census workers will be knocking on doors and others will be at desks in offices.

The Census Bureau is in the process of opening 248 offices nationwide, including three in Connecticut.

Bysiewicz, the chairwoman of the Connecticut Complete Count Committee, said that the state will spend $500,000 on efforts to make sure everyone is counted, and that community foundations have pledged to at least match that expense.

Bysiewicz has been leading the state’s committee efforts for more than a year.

Officials expect when all the hiring is done nearly 30,000 will be hired for jobs in Connecticut; 500,000 throughout the country.

“For every person we undercount we lose $2,900,” said Bysiewicz. She described the positions as “great paying, part-time positions.”

DeLauro echoed the lieutenant governor’s comments, stating: “these are good paying jobs.”

DeLauro said her mother, former New Haven alderwoman Luisa DeLauro, was a Census taker. Rosa DeLauro said she recalled travelling through New Haven neighborhoods with her mom while her mother did her Census work.

“She used it to supplement her other income,” DeLauro said, nothing that the pay for the job these days is far more than what it was decades ago.

Meanwhile, besides dollars, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has said that Connecticut’s political districts, which are reconfigured every 10 years after the census, are likely to change significantly based on the results of the count.

Looney stressed that point in his remarks, noting that Connecticut lost a representative in Washington, D.C. in 2002 due to the results of the 2000 Census.

Merrill has also said the 2020 Census will be “more online than it has been in the past” to capitalize on the ever-growing number of people with reliable Internet access.

Bysiewicz and other officials said census participation cannot be used to change a person’s public assistance program participation or their immigration status, and temporary workers hired by the Census Bureau also will not have their assistance affected.