Reminder: 2020 Census is more than just a population count

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Workers have already begun preliminary work in Alaska for the 2020 United States Census.

Address canvassing has already kicked off. And in January, the first person will be officially counted in Toksook Bay.

“It's not just a population count,” Jessi Curtis, recruiting manager for census efforts in Alaska, said. “It's a count that determines how the next 10 years in this state is going to go.”

From Medicaid to school lunches, a number of programs in the state are partially reliant on the federal funding that is guided by data from the census.

“We do this every 10 years,” Curtis said. “For every person not counted, that’s money we don’t see. As far as the federal government is concerned, those people don’t exist. So we want to show that we’re here and get the accurate funding we deserve in our state.”

In fiscal year 2016, Alaska received almost $3.2 billion dollars in the allocation of federal funds for 55 large spending programs. These funds were guided by data from the 2010 census, according to a study by the GW Institute of Public Policy.

"If you get an undercount the problem is we are leaving money on the table and Alaska doesn't get its fair share of funding from the feds," said Andrew Cutting, senior program fellow with the Alaska Children’s Trust.

One hurdle the census team will tackle starting in January is simply getting to Alaska residents.

“We have challenges with our rural communities, just getting there and working around the seasonal activities that we have,” Curtis said.

For the first time ever, residents will be asked to complete the census online. Alaska residents should expect census requests via mail in March.

Curtis said that a few hundred people in Alaska will be hired temporarily to help with the census.

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