2020 Census kicks off in Alaska where Toksook Bay residents will be first to be counted

Published: Jan. 17, 2020 at 3:12 PM AKST
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The 2020 census has officially started in Alaska. As usual, because of our size, Alaska is getting a head start, with the first counts taking place in Toksook Bay beginning Tuesday.

Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Dr. Steve Dillingham, and several other census leaders came together to kick off the 2020 Census at the Alaska Native Heritage center Friday.

It's easier for census workers to travel on frozen ground in January and February than it is in the spring when everything begins to thaw. It also helps to reach these communities before residents head out to their hunting and fishing grounds-- that's why remote Alaskan villages are the first to be counted.

Each year, $3.2 billion in federal resources is allocated to Alaska based on census bureau data. That's money that can be used for roads and bridges, school programs, public safety and more. That's why census leaders say accuracy is so important for the census.

"Our goal is to count everyone once, only once, and to count them in the right place, and we're making available to people, using people, and giving people multiple options on how to respond and making sure that they take the extra steps to reach people that have special challenges or circumstances, and that's why the first enumeration is so important," said Dillingham. "It kind of sets the tone for the rest of the nation."

About 15% or more of our state consists of Alaska Natives. That's why the U.S. Census Bureau has partnered with Alaska Native organizations and Alaska Native partnership specialists to ensure everyone is counted accurately.

"We recognize that the census bureau is not able to translate census materials into any Alaska Native languages," said Gabe Layman with the Alaska Census Working Group. "So with the leadership of one of the Alaska Census Working Groups core partners, the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, we've been able to translate census materials into four key Alaska Native Languages."

If you're looking for a job, the Census Bureau needs help counting. The bureau is hiring between 300 and 500 thousand people to go out and conduct the enumeration.

"These are well-paying positions," said Dillingham. "This morning I learned that here in Alaska it's $28 an hour, and we want people from those areas who know it best -- from the villages, from those areas that know it best, know the languages, know the people and are the trusted voices."

More than 240 remote Alaskan villages will be counted over the next few weeks. Residents of Anchorage, Fairbanks and other large cities in Alaska will respond to the 2020 census online, by phone or by mail in mid-March with the rest of the country.

Watch Friday morning's full kickoff event above.

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