With the 2020 census around the corner, bureau director visits Dillingham

Oct 22, 2019

The 2020 U.S. Census kicks off in Toksook Bay on Jan. 21. On a recent trip to Dillingham, the U.S. Census Bureau made a plug for rural residents to participate.

The village of Nondalton, April 2019.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

The director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Steven Dillingham, travelled around Alaska last week to encourage participation in the 2020 census. He attended the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Fairbanks, and he also visited Dillingham and Aleknagik.

To ensure an accurate count of how many people live in rural areas of Alaska, the census bureau depends on the knowledge of local residents. Dillingham said that an accurate population and household count is critical to small communities, because federal funding is tied to how many people live there.

"So when you have a complete count, then you ensure that the benefit and services reach those people," he explained. "And if you have an undercount, people could be missing out on their fair share of resources. But that’s also true on the state level, on the local level, and it also extends to the business community and to nonprofits.”

That's also true for federally recognized tribes; as KYUK reported last year, the data gathered during the census is a main factor in how much funding a tribe receives over the next decade. 

Dillingham said getting accurate census counts in Alaska requires innovation and local knowledge.

“In the rural areas, we have to have people from the local communities to find these homes and residences," he said. "People that have a good knowledge of those communities are very helpful to us, and we need to make sure we count everyone.”

There are several ways Bristol Bay residents can participate in the census next year. People in Dillingham will receive a questionnaire in the mail. In other communities, census counters will be knocking on doors to ask for information. In March, people across the country will be able to fill out the census online or by phone.

To find out more about working for the 2020 census, visit 2020census.gov/jobs or call 1-855-JOB-2020 (1-855-562-2020). 

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200