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Commerce Announces Expanded Census Outreach Using Coronavirus Relief Funding

Commerce Partners with Montana Nonprofit Association, Western Native Voice and Forward Montana Foundation on Targeted Outreach to Low-Response Areas

Monday, August 3, 2020/Categories: Market MT

HELENA, Mont. – The Montana Department of Commerce today announced it is expanding 2020 Census outreach efforts with statewide partners through $530,500 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to ensure all Montana households are counted in the decennial Census.

“Some of the things that make Montana the best place to live – our vast, wide open spaces and rural places – are the same things that make it harder to count our residents in the Census,” said Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who is the chair of the Montana Complete Count Committee for the 2020 Census. “This funding through the Coronavirus Relief Fund recognizes that we have work to do to catch up after COVID-19 disrupted Census count efforts, and allows us to partner with folks across the state to reach Montanans in hard-to-count areas who have not yet responded to the Census.”

In June, Governor Steve Bullock allocated $530,500 to the Montana Department of Commerce to continue Census education and outreach efforts. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 56.5 percent of Montanans have self-responded to the 2020 Census, putting Montana below the national average of 62.8 percent.

The Montana Nonprofit Association, Western Native Voice and Forward Montana Foundation will share the funding to conduct targeted outreach aimed at low self-responding areas of the state to encourage residents in those areas to fill out the Census. Additionally, the Department of Commerce is contracting with Missoula-based marketing agency Windfall to strategically reach households in low-response areas of the state through radio, newspaper, television and digital communication. Three other states – North Dakota, Wyoming and Utah have contacted the Department of Commerce expressing interest in implementing similar approaches.

In Montana, about 20 percent of homes do not receive mail at a traditional household address. In some Montana counties and reservation areas, almost all households do not have city-style addresses. This means many Montanans do not get their Census materials in the mail because the U.S. Census Bureau does not mail to P.O. boxes or Rural Route addresses.

While the federal government is tasked with counting all households every 10 years, the state supports the effort to educate and promote the importance of the Census. The U.S. Census Bureau suspended all field operations from March to early May to slow the spread of COVID-19, which put Montana’s response rate below the national average.

An accurate and complete count of all Montanans is critical for determining the federal funding distributed to the state, it shapes local voting and school districts, and it determines whether Montana will receive a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

For each Montanan not counted, the state stands to lose an estimated $20,000 in federal funding over the next decade.

Montanans who haven’t yet responded to the 2020 Census can do so by going to MY2020CENSUS.GOV, by calling 1-844-330-2020, or by mailing in their Census form if they received one in the mail.


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