Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt Wednesday announced a partnership arrangement with Goodwill Industries International to promote the 2000 decennial census and provide job training for welfare recipients and others.
"I hope it will be a precedent for other [partnerships]. It's exactly the kind of partnership we need," Prewitt said.
In exchange for access to Goodwill's 1,700 retail outlets, the bureau is offering job training and placement as it begins to fill 850,000 jobs needed to conduct the census.
"What the Census Bureau gives us is a very credible, prestigious employment placement opportunity," said former Rep. Fred Grandy, R-Iowa, now president of Goodwill. The bureau hopes to establish 100,000 relationships with local groups to boost participation in the census.
In a Tuesday forum hosted by the Urban Institute, Prewitt said the effort represented a historic change in how the bureau conducts the census. He said lower civic engagement made it necessary to build public "ownership" in the census.
But Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, the GOP chairman of the Census Monitoring Board, said that, despite the bureau's efforts, it has not done enough to reach populations missed in the 1990 census, such as residents in federal housing projects.
"They said, 'They're not listening to us,' " Blackwell said of conversations he has had in housing projects. "They are not really partnerships."
Blackwell made another pitch for the use of post-census local review, which the bureau opposes, and said the bureau must devote more resources to 2,600 of 60,000 local census tracts identified as hard to count.
Blackwell said he is not trying to work against the bureau, but prompt it to become a less centralized, more locally focused operation.
"There are behavioral changes that have to be made [at the bureau]," he said.
House Republicans have reserved judgment on the partnership effort, but are expected to monitor the program closely.