Make the Census Count

Mike Cooney
Friday, October 18, 2019

One of the most important civic duties Montanans will participate in next year is filling out and responding to the 2020 U.S. Census. At just nine-questions long, the questionnaire might not seem like a big deal, but it is.

It’s the Census, done every ten years, that’s responsible for deciding how much federal money comes into Montana. And in a small state like ours, every dollar matters.

It’s estimated that Montana receives more than $2 billion each year as a result of the Census. Annually, Montana’s public schools receive nearly $37 million for school breakfast and lunch programs, $50 million for Head Start programs, and $57 million for Title I and II programs. More than $440 million in federal money comes to Montana to pay for highway construction and planning. And nearly $170 million supports Medicare for Montana seniors.

For every Montanan who does not fill out their Census form, the state stands to lose nearly $20,000 over the next decade. It also means our state’s voting districts can become misaligned, and Montanans won’t have accurate data for making important business and community decisions.

That’s why recent look-alike surveys being sent to Montana residents meant to create confusion have me worried. The Census is too important to take lightly.

Here’s what you need to know about the official U.S. Census. In early 2020, every household in America will receive a notice from the U. S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce to complete the 9-question census online, by phone, or by mail to a physical address. It’s free to respond. The Census will never ask you to pay a processing fee or make a donation in order to participate.

The 2020 Census questionnaire will ask only a few simple questions — name, number of household members and relationship type, the type of housing, whether the respondent owns or rents their home, phone, gender, age and date of birth, ethnicity and race. This simple, short questionnaire takes just a few minutes to complete and return by mail or phone. It’s also important to know that responding to the Census is safe. Your responses are anonymous, and the Census Bureau by law cannot release any information about the people who respond.

This week marks the Census Hiring Week. The U.S. Census Bureau will hire thousands of Montanans between now and next spring to make sure every single Montanan is counted. You can find more information about jobs available in Montana at CENSUS.MT.GOV.

We know that when Montanans come together for a common goal, we get results. Montana now has more than 60 local Complete Count Committees formed in communities in every corner of this state and we’re in full swing in partnership with the Montana Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau to get the word out on the importance of completing the Census and how to do it.

There’s a lot at stake in 2020, but with your help, I know we’ll make it count.

( Mike Cooney is the Lt. Governor of Montana.)

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