The Census Bureau is scheduled to end data collection this month on Sept. 30 and Otter Tail County is sitting at only a 55.3% self-response rate, one of the lowest in the state, compared to a state-wide self-response rate of 73.9%.
Ryan Miller, development and planning specialist for the city of Fergus Falls and Complete Count Committee staff liaison for Fergus Falls, says, “We are concerned with the 55.3% self-response rate. A complete count is obviously the goal and with the deadline cut short to Sept. 30 as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is certainly a high risk of missed counts.”
Although Census Bureau employees are currently working on going door to door to collect data from people who have not self-reported, rural areas can make their work especially difficult. Participants can self-report data online, over the phone or through the mail. Accurate census counts are important for allocating federal funds that go toward schools, roads, public works and more. Businesses looking to open new facilities will also look at Census Bureau data to determine where to build.
Miller says the Fergus Falls Complete Count Committee will be increasing efforts this month to raise awareness of the census. Although they’ve been involved with educational campaigns throughout the year, he says, “In this final month, we will be distributing additional flyers around town as well as yard signs to help spread the word that everyone counts.”