Local census workers, or canvassers, are verifying addresses for the 2020 census count that will begin April 1 in Kodiak and across Alaska.
Census canvassers are verifying addresses, especially in hard to count areas, so the census invitations will be sent to actual households, said Laurie Wolf, founder of the Alaska Census Working Group and president and CEO of The Foraker Group.
“Alaska is difficult to count because of our geography. Primarily, we’re a low population, dispersed over large areas. So that creates lots of challenges,” she said.
This year, the U.S. Census Bureau is focused on receiving census responses online, but for rural Alaska communities with little internet access, this could prove challenging, Wolf said.
Other challenges include Alaska’s young population and multi-family or crowded homes.
“Children are hard to count, and Alaska has a pretty young population,” she said. “And Alaska has, of course, housing challenges across our state. And so that means that many homes are often housing multiple families, so that creates lots of challenges.”
The Census Bureau conducts a census every 10 years to count every person residing in the U.S. The census includes questions related to information about who residents are and where they live, Wolf said.
This year, the census will be 10 questions and take 10 to 15 minutes, said Tom Panamaroff, the Regional and Legislative Affairs Executive for Koniag, Inc. and who has been participating in the Alaska Census Working Group for the past year.
The Alaska Census Working Group, made up of public, private, nonprofit, and tribal entities that represent the interests of people and organizations across the state, is tasked with identifying census-related issues that might affect Alaska, according to the work group’s website.
The data is confidential and used for statistical purposes, Panamaroff said.
“Nothing that anybody says individually will be shared with any other agency; it’s all statistics,” he said.
Panamaroff said filling out the census is important for federally funded programs such as Head Start and Medicaid.
“For Alaska, there’s almost $3.2 billion that comes into the state and federal programs where the allocation of those funds is calculated using census data,” he said.
Although Kodiak Island is not considered a hard to count area, the island may have challenges in regard to hiring local census staff to count Kodiak’s rural populations, Panamaroff said.
“I think the challenge would be for the census workers to get to the community; there could be weather issues,” he said. “And then if the census workers are not local, and that potentially could be a barrier to people responding to the census.”
An invitation to complete the census will be sent to households across the U.S. by April 1. In May, census workers will travel to residences that have not responded to the invitation, according to the government’s 2020 census website.
In December, the census counts will be sent to the president, and in March the Census Bureau will send the counts to state governments to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.