MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock and Lt. Governor Mike Cooney today sent a letter urging the U.S. Census Bureau to continue 2020 Census operations through its extended deadline of October 31 to get an accurate count for Montana while allowing for continued health and safety measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Montana is not alone in experiencing deep and unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our administration is working first to protect the health and safety of our state’s 1.06 million residents,” Governor Bullock and Lt. Gov. Cooney, who serves as chair of the Montana Complete Count Committee, wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We are also doing all we can to offset the short and long-term impacts this will have on our economy, our communities and our families.”
The U.S. Census Bureau suspended all field operations from March to early May to slow the spread of COVID-19 and extended the deadline from July 31 to October 31 to respond to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Census Bureau late Monday evening confirmed news reports last week that it will cut its 2020 Census count operations short by a month, to end on September 30.
After delays due to the pandemic, ending count efforts early would jeopardize Montana’s efforts to get a complete count and ensure full federal funding. According to the U.S. Census Bureau as of Monday, 56.6 percent of Montanans have self-responded to the 2020 Census, putting Montana below the national average of 62.9 percent.
“Today, an estimated 525,000 Montanans have not been counted in the 2020 Census. If the Census Bureau continues to move the goal posts of the decennial count, we fear entire communities in Montana will go uncounted and therefore unrepresented in our democracy. These communities rely on an accurate Census to provide critical funding for schools, health care and highways. Without an accurate count, the fabric of Montana will be detrimentally impacted for at least the next 10 years,” Governor Bullock and Lt. Gov. Cooney wrote in the letter.
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. In June, Governor Bullock allocated $530,500 in Coronavirus Relief Funding to the Montana Department of Commerce to continue 2020 Census education and outreach efforts. The funding is being deployed to low response areas of the state to quickly make up for the time lost this spring due to COVID-19.
An accurate and complete count of all Montanans is critical for determining the federal funding distributed to the state – overall, more than $2 billion from 300 federal programs is allocated back to Montana based on Census information. The Census count also shapes local voting and school districts, and it determines whether Montana will receive a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Montanans who have not 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.
The full letter to Secretary Ross is attached.