2020 Census starts counting in Alaska

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham arrives in Toksook Bay, Alaska for the 2020 Census first enumeration which began on January 21, 2020.

Census takers begin counting remainder of 220 remote Alaska villages as part of national headcount 

TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska – Today, the U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham kicked off the 2020 Census in the remote Alaska Native village of Toksook Bay — counting the first person and household in the nation’s once-a-decade count.

“The 2020 Census is critically important. No matter where you live, you need to be counted,” said Dillingham. “From the most remote parts of our country to the most urban, there is too much at stake — we are working to make sure everyone can respond and have the opportunity to shape their communities’ future.”

The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census of the population be conducted every 10 years. Census statistics are used to determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and inform how billions of dollars in federal funds will be allocated by state, local and federal lawmakers every year for the next 10 years.

Director Dillingham delivering first 2020 Census questionnaire on snowmobile to a household selected by village leaders.

Following a four-day trip in Anchorage and Bethel, Alaska, Dillingham travelled to Toksook Bay where he was met by village leaders, residents and local census takers. He delivered the first 2020 Census questionnaire to a household selected by village leaders and enumerated the residents of that household.

“I want to thank the people of Toksook Bay for their hospitality,” said Dillingham. “The 2020 Census will shape our future, and I am proud we started this journey here.”

Toksook Bay is a village located on Nelson Island along the Bering Sea in southwestern Alaska. Census takers must get a head start in rural, remote areas like Toksook Bay when the ground is frozen and prior to the spring thaw, when residents leave to fish, hunt and seek out warm-weather jobs.

“We have been working to prepare for this count since before 2018 and are happy to see the first count of the 2020 Census begin in our village. Through this historic occasion we have shared with the Census Bureau our traditions and our culture,” said Robert Pitka, Nunakauyak tribal administrator. “The 2020 Census ensures our traditions and our people are marked in history. The census is so important because it helps remote villages like ours receive important community resources now and into the future.”

More than half of households on tribal lands across the country have nontraditional addresses where the Census Bureau can’t mail a census form. With no at-home mail delivery and a short window to respond before seasons change, receiving an invitation this way would be nearly impossible for remote Alaska residents. This is why the Census Bureau worked with Alaska Native leaders to determine the best way to count people living on their lands. In Toksook Bay and other remote areas of Alaska, census takers will visit people at home and will fill out their questionnaire in person.

The first enumeration comes days after the launch of a $500 million public education and outreach campaign featuring more than 1,000 advertisements designed to inform the public about the importance of responding to the 2020 Census. Ads reaching multicultural and historically undercounted audiences are already airing nationwide while ads for general audiences will begin running on February 10, 2020. 

This past December marked the first time the Census Bureau aired ads reaching audiences in remote Alaska for a decennial census. Aimed primarily at reaching Alaska Native people, these promotional materials included full-page print ads, commercial signage, posters, radio ads and digital messages. For more information about the 2020 Census Paid Media Campaign, visit here.

The massive public education effort includes a heavy focus on encouraging participation among historically undercounted groups, including rural populations and Alaska Natives.

Today’s enumeration is just the beginning of the Census Bureau’s comprehensive plan to count everyone living in the United States. In order to count every person, the Census Bureau is building a team by hiring hundreds of thousands of local census takers to knock on doors of households that don’t self-respond to the census. We are actively recruiting people from across the country to apply for the temporary positions.

While the 2020 Census count officially starts with a special operation in Toksook Bay and other remote areas of Alaska, residents of Anchorage, Fairbanks, and other large Alaska cities, along with the rest of the nation will be invited to respond for the first time to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail. Invitations to respond will reach most of the estimated 145 million households across the country between March 12 and March 20, 2020. More information is available on how the 2020 Census will invite everyone to respond.

For more information about the 2020 Census, visit 2020census.gov.

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