Volunteers on local ‘Complete Count Committee’ working on a variety of fronts to get the word out on the 2020 Census

    A group of local volunteers is hoping that by the time it’s time for everyone to be counted as part of the 2020 U.S. Census, everyone in and around Crookston will be almost sick and tired of hearing about it.

    In other words, they’re hoping the publicity, awareness and education blitz they’re currently embarking on is successful and that everyone is counted. It’s not just about doing a big count and changing numbers on a city’s green population sign, there is congressional representation at stake – Minnesota is considered at potential risk of losing one of its eight seats in the U.S. House – not too mention a whole lot of money. The smaller a state’s population, the less federal dollars it receives. Based on numbers from the 2015 Census, Minnesota received almost $8.5 billion through 16 large federal assistance programs, or approximately $1,500 per person.

    City of Crookston Finance Director Angel Weasner and Deputy City Clerk/Administrative Assistant Ashley Rystad have formed a local “Complete Count Committee” comprised of members who represent a wide variety of local, area and regional populations. The hope is that through their cross-sectional expertise and reach, everyone will know the importance of being counted in the 2020 Census.

    Committee members will have a presence at Night to Unite August 6 in Central Park and during Ox Cart Days later in the month. Committee members like Mitch Bakken from Tri-Valley Opportunity Council and Patty Dillabough from the Golden Link Senior Center are playing integral roles in getting the word out to their audiences.

    “A lot of people will be leaving for the winter and we have to catch them before they go,” Weasner explained. “We want to make sure they know they need to be counted here.” She added that she and others on the committee will be speaking to various service clubs.

    The 2020 U.S. Census is in the “campaign” phase now as groups across the nation like Crookston’s Complete Count Committee ramp up efforts to spread the word. The “starting the count” phase will be from Dec. 31, 2019 to March 31, 2020, Rystad explained.

    Approximately 95% of households will receive their U.S. Census documents via mail. The remaining 5% will receive the census information via an actual census worker who drops it off or makes an in-person visit. Between March 12-20, people will receive in the mail an invitation to respond online to the 2020 Census. Days later, they’ll receive a reminder letter. In late March and early April, they’ll receive a reminder postcard, followed April 8-16 by a reminder letter and a paper questionnaire. A final reminder postcard will be mailed out April 20-27 before census workers attempt to follow up in person.

    With it now being official that there will be no citizenship question on the census, Weasner noted that a big part of the effort will be making sure that people, especially minorities, aren’t afraid to be counted. Much of the census-related information that will be disseminated in the area will be in both English and Spanish, she added. A significant effort will be made to reassure various populations that the information they provide via the 2020 Census is confidential, Weasner noted.

    “The more we let the community know how much this is going to affect us, whether it’s money, public safety or all kinds of other ways,” Rystad said. “Everything we can do as members of the community to spread the word is huge, because being counted is huge for us.”