By now you should have received a letter in the mail or on your door inviting you to take part in the 2020 U.S. Census.

Invitations were to arrive between March 12-20 with instructions for responding online. Areas less likely to respond online will also receive a paper questionnaire.

The Wadena County Commissioners heard from Jeffery Wigren, partnership specialist, with the U.S. Census Bureau, recently about the role the county can play in ensuring everyone is counted once. He emphasized the importance of counting children.

“In 2010 we missed 1.2 million children under the age of 5, and it was pretty much consistent across all states,” Wigren said. “What we are finding is that children that are being raised in multiple households just get forgotten. It’s not that they don’t want to count their children, but they think that dad’s gonna do it, or mom’s gonna do it or grandma’s gonna do it and somebody doesn’t do it. One of them has to count them.”

To effectively capture federal funding, all people of all ages must be counted. The importance of the 2020 census could be narrowed to a dollar figure. The value of each person is about $2,800 annually or $28,000 over the decade, Wigren said.

“We have one chance to get the decennial census count correct, otherwise it would require a federal lawsuit,” Wigren said. “It doesn’t behoove a county or city to order a recount.”

Wigren explained that 95% of households will respond to the mail invitation. The remaining population may be harder to track down, but the Census Bureau has their ways.

“It’s a mandatory civic duty, however, there’s no penalties associated with it,” Wigren said. He compared it to registering to vote.

Wigren asked the board to partner with the census to identify a place where people could come in and complete the census or help answer questions. That type of operation, possibly in a library or other public space, would start after March 30. The location was not yet identified.

What to expect

Plan to include everyone you expect to live in your home on April 1, but include those who make it their home most of the time. Wigren gave the example of a snowbird that lives in Wadena County from May through December. They might not be here in April, but they spend most of their time here, so that is the address they should include.

You can respond online or by phone in one of 13 languages and find assistance in many more. If you need help completing the 2020 Census, you can call a toll-free phone number.

The census takes about 10 minutes but can take longer. The more people you have in your household the longer it can take.

By law, the Census Bureau can only use your responses to produce statistics.

Why is it important?

The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years. The 2020 Census will count everyone who lives in the U.S. as of April 1, 2020. Census statistics help determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and how billions of dollars in federal funds will be allocated by state, local, and federal lawmakers every year for the next 10 years.

Key Dates

The Census Bureau launched a public education and outreach campaign to inform the public on how and when to respond. Below is a timeline of Census Bureau mailings inviting households to respond online, by phone or by mail.

  • March 12-20: The U.S. Postal Service will deliver initial invitations to respond online and by phone. Areas that are less likely to respond online will receive a paper questionnaire along with the invitation to respond online or over the phone.

  • March 16-24: Reminder letters will be delivered.

  • March 26-April 3: Reminder postcards will be delivered to households that have not responded.

  • April 8-16: Reminder letters and paper questionnaires will be delivered to remaining households that have not responded.

  • April 20-27: Final reminder postcards will be delivered to households that have not yet responded.

If a household does not respond to the census, a census taker will follow up in person. In most cases, this will begin in mid-May and conclude in late July. Households can still respond on their own during this period, and if they do, they will be removed from the non-response follow-up workload. People are encouraged to answer all questions on the 2020 Census to avoid having a census taker knock at their door.