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The original item was published from 12/8/2019 5:27:00 PM to 1/1/2020 12:00:03 AM.

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Posted on: December 5, 2019

[ARCHIVED] Census Committee Works to Reach Hard-to-Count Populations

The City of Bismarck and Burleigh County have established a joint Census 2020 Complete Count Committee to develop and implement an awareness campaign that motivates residents to respond to the 2020 Census and encourages participation by population groups that are often undercounted. The committee has been meeting every other month since April 2019, and is expected to increase targeted awareness campaigns in the upcoming months. The committee is made up of members of the community who represent business, community, education, faith based and media communication organizations. 

Getting an accurate count is vital to ensuring that the Bismarck-Burleigh region receives its fair share of federal funding that is allocated based on the census. Estimates show that for each North Dakota resident not counted, the state and political subdivisions stand to lose $1,910 in federal funding annually, or $19,100 over the next ten years. This lost funding means less federal assistance for road and highway construction, social services and housing aid. Complete Count Committee Chairman, Jason Tomanek says, “By being counted in the 2020 Census, you will help inform funding for local parks, school programs, emergency services, and future business investments in our community. We all count, and we all get to shape our future by participating in the 2020 Census. Everyone can make a difference by participating.”

An accurate census count is also vital to our community and residents’ well-being by helping planners determine where to locate schools, daycare centers, roads and public transportation, hospitals and other facilities. Additionally, census data is used to help determine how many seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and often is used for the redistricting of state legislatures, county and city councils and voting districts and thus helps to ensure equal representation in the political process.

Will Hutchings, a Planner with the City of Bismarck who staffs the Complete Count Committee, says the committee has developed an outreach plan to identify hard-to-count populations specific to the Bismarck-Burleigh region. Outreach efforts specifically focus on reaching hard-to-count populations to educate and motivate residents to participate in the 2020 Census to help ensure that everyone is counted. 

Starting in 2010 the number of questions on the decennial census was shortened to a few simple questions. The questions that will be asked on the 2020 Census are limited to the number of people living or staying in each household, whether the household unit is owned or rented, as well as the sex, age, and race of each individual reported. 

The official Census Day is April 1, 2020. This is the date that is used to determine residency. Households will receive a notice to complete the census beginning in mid-March. The U.S. Census Bureau lays out specific criteria for how people are counted based on where they live. People are counted based on where they live most of the time. Hutchings noted this can sometimes confuse people who may have more than residence. 

For example, a snow-bird who spends five months of the year living in a southern state and who is physically residing in their southern home on April 1, may be inclined to respond that they are not a North Dakota residence, but since they live in North Dakota the remaining seven months, they should be counted as a North Dakota resident.

College and university students are another group that may be confused about how to report where they live. For tuition purposes the college or university may consider them an out-of-state resident, but since those students spend the majority of the year here, for the census, they need to be counted as a North Dakota resident.

In 2020, for the first time ever, the U.S. Census Bureau will accept responses online, in addition to phone and mail responses.  For those who live in a rural area that normally receive mail at a P.O. Box, a census form will be hand-delivered to households by a U.S. Census Bureau employee. For residents who do not self-respond, census workers will begin contacting no-responsive individual households for follow-up throughout April 2020.

Privacy concerns are often one of the reasons people may be hesitant to respond to the census, but Hutchings noted that the U.S. Census Bureau never shares individual information with any other agencies or entities such as landlords, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or law-enforcement agencies. 

To learn more about Census 2020 and the Complete Count Committee visit: bismarcknd.gov/Census2020 

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