Census officials talk about importance of Alaska census at AFN conference

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham was in Alaska for the Alaska Federation of Natives conference and spoke about the importance of making sure everyone in rural Alaska is counted. He took the stage to talk about some of the challenges of doing a census in Alaska and how those are addressed.

Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham was in Alaska for the Alaska Federation of Natives conference and spoke about the importance of making sure everyone in rural Alaska is counted. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

Dillingham said that the U.S. Census Bureau goes out of their way to make sure that Alaska Natives are counted. One of the main ways they ensure that everyone gets counted is starting the census in rural areas months earlier than the rest of the country.

The census will begin on January 21st in Toksook Bay. Months ahead of the rest of the country. One of the reasons they begin so early in Alaska is because often times people move or leave in the summer to hunt and fish.

One of the Census Bureau’s main goals is to make sure everyone is counted.

"It is so important to get everyone counted,” Dillingham said. “A lot of people look at the federal dollars, and we have documented at the Census Bureau that more than 675 billion dollars in federal funds are allocated using census data. At the same time, states also make decisions and allocations and so do local governments. And so there is verity of levels of government but also the private sector make investments based on this data too, so it's so important in so many different ways."

Dillingham said that it is important to have census enumerators from each village who can use their knowledge of the local culture and language to help ensure every person is counted.

The Census Bureau hires a half million people to conduct the census making it the largest mobilization since World War Two and it happens every ten years.

The census had a booth at the AFN conference where people could apply to be census enumerators.

Jessi Curtis, the recruiting manager for Alaska said that they want to hire people that the neighborhood already knows.
"I'm trying to make sure that we hire as many Alaskans locally as we can to count our state,” Curtis said. “So I want to hire people in every single village, in every single town, in every city in our state to carry out the 2020 census."

People can apply to work for the census online. Curtis also said that 2020 is the first year that people can respond to census questionnaires online.

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