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State offers incentive for Census


September 24, 2020

On Tuesday, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), launched the 2020 Census State Championship. A program that will help encourage counties and tribes in Montana to compete for the highest increase in self-response rates to the 2020 Census. The program started September 15 and will run until September 30.

“With only 15 days left in the 2020 Census count, the Commerce Department and the Montana Complete Count Committee are urging every Montana resident to respond to the 2020 Census before the shortened deadline of September 30,” a press release stated.

“This is the final countdown for the 2020 Census,” Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, the Chair of the Montana Complete Count Committee, said in the press release. “The counties and tribes that win the 2020 Census State Championship will get not only bragging rights with a trophy to prove it, but will also receive their fair share of federal funding for the next 10 years, accurate representation in the state Legislature, and the knowledge that they contributed to the possibility of Montana regaining a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Game on, Montana!”

There will be two winners for counties and two winners for tribal nations based on the percentage increase in self-response rates, as well as for the increase in the number of households that respond to the 2020 Census during the competition.

Montana gets $20,000 in federal funding over a decade for each person counted in the Census. Based on gathered Census Data, Montana receives almost $500 million each year for education programs, nearly $600 million each year for infrastructure, over $1 billion each year for health care, and over $250 million each year for seniors, workers, and families. Nationally, Census Data helps fund $5 billion each year for Indian Health Services.

Due to the spread of the COVID-19, the U.S. Census Bureau suspended all field operations from March to early May to help slow the spread of the virus. Additionally, the Census Bureau shortened the deadline of the 2020 Census to September 30. As a result, the self-response rate for the Montana Census, is below the national average. Tribal nations and rural counties in the state are at risk of an undercount. This could lead to further misrepresentation of tribal communities and could also lead to insufficient funding for Montana programs, especially for funding needed in rural counties such as Sanders.

Thompson Falls Library Director Lynne Kersten offered her input on the importance of the 2020 Census and making sure all Sanders County residents are counted. As of right now, the self-response rate for Sanders County is at 42.3%. “It’s so very important for Sanders County to get our response rate up,” Kersten stated. “Rural communities, like ours, have enough challenges these days. So much in our community is based on the census data. Please support our community, it takes about five minutes to fill out the Census and we can help you at the library.”

For every Montanan not counted, the state stands to lose an estimated $20,000 in federal funding over the next decade. Census information is also used to draw local voting and school districts, and it determines whether Montana will receive a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.


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