GREAT FALLS – Lt. Governor Mike Cooney today visited the Great Falls Public Library to see firsthand how the library is continuing to provide essential services to the public, including serving as a 2020 Census Be Counted Site and utilizing a $10,000 state Coronavirus Relief Fund grant to create a drive thru window to ensure Montanans have access to library services while minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
“I’m thrilled to see the public safety measures the Great Falls Public Library is taking, including wearing masks, social distancing, and constructing a new drive-thru window to keep Montanans safe from COVID-19 while continuing to serve the community,” Lt. Gov. Cooney said. “The Coronavirus Relief Fund is ensuring nonprofits can be flexible and innovative to respond to COVID-19 while continuing to provide critical services and meet the unique needs of Montanans across the state.”
“The Great Falls Public Library is working on many fronts to meet the needs of our community, by providing a place where Montanans can fill out their census, making free WiFi available to those who need it, and more – all while protecting against the spread of COVID-19,” said Susie McIntyre, director of the Great Falls Public Library. “We are grateful to have so many partners at the state, and this much-needed funding to continue serving the needs of the Great Falls community.”
The $10,000 Social Services Nonprofit Grant through the Coronavirus Relief Fund will fund construction of a drive thru window that will allow library patrons to pick up library materials. The option to use the drive thru window will minimize potential exposure to COVID-19 and will allow older and immunocompromised Montanans to still utilize library services. With support from the Montana State Library’s Mobile Hotspot Program, the Great Falls Public Library is also providing free WiFi at community locations.
The library also serves as one of 151 Be Counted sites in Montana and received a $5,000 Census Rapid Response Grant from the National League of Cities to continue 2020 census response efforts safely. Individuals can visit the library to access a computer and Wi-Fi to fill out their Census.
Lt. Gov. Cooney, chair of the State Complete Count Committee, is partnering with the Montana Department of Commerce to lead the state’s outreach efforts conveying the importance of responding to the 2020 census.
“Nearly every aspect of our lives has been disrupted by COVID-19, and the 2020 census is no exception,” Lt. Gov. Cooney said. “And even though so much is uncertain right now, the census is one thing Montanans can do now to support our communities and our state for the next decade. It just takes 10 minutes to make your mark on the next 10 years.”
The federal U.S. Census Bureau is responsible for counting all households every 10 years, while the state supports education, outreach and promotion of the census. The U.S. Census Bureau suspended all field operations from March-early May to slow the spread of COVID-19, which put Montana’s response rate below the national average. Montanans have self-responded to the 2020 census at a rate of 55.4 percent, while the national average self-response rate is 61.7 percent.
An accurate and complete count of all Montanans is critical for determining the federal funding distributed to the state, shaping local voting districts, and determining whether Montana will get a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. For every Montanan missed in the census count, the state will lose an estimated $20,000 in federal funding, which funds more than 300 programs Montanans rely on.
On June 22, Gov. Bullock announced he is allocating $530,000 to the Montana Department of Commerce to continue 2020 census promotion and outreach through Oct. 31, 2020 – the new deadline for completing the decennial count.
The State Complete Count Committee under Lt. Gov. Cooney is working with Be Counted sites across the state, the Montana Nonprofit Association, Western Native Voice, and other complete count committees to reach Montanans who have not yet responded to the 2020 census.
Montanans can respond to the 2020 census at My2020Census.Gov, by calling 844-330-2020, by mailing in the census form, or by visiting a Be Counted site near them. Find out more about Montana’s census efforts at CENSUS.MT.GOV.