Officials hope to wrap up the 2020 Census count in Unalaska before Sept.1, according to Jody Farmer, field supervisor for the Aleutians West Census Area.
Originally, Unalaskans were expected to have until Oct. 31 to participate. Despite the shortened timeline, Farmer said Unalaskans are responding well, and he believes the six local enumerators—two of which are still training—will be able to complete the job in time.
Enumerators are walking door-to-door, reaching out to those people the Census Bureau hasn't yet received information from—either through paper or online self-response—according to Farmer. And he said although people may have already participated, it's possible some responses may have gotten lost or slowed down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"With the whole COVID thing, [there] might be problems with paper responses—that [they] got lost or held up somewhere," said Farmer. "And it's just as easy just to answer the enumerators if they come by."
At the end of May, census enumerators returned to the Aleutians West region after a break beginning in mid-March caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. And at that time, less than five percent of the Aleutians West Area had responded. As of Wednesday, more than 21 percent of people had responded through online self-response. Farmer did not say how many additional people have participated through the in-person enumerator process.
Additionally, Farmer said it's important for the community to participate. If a population is underrepresented in the count, the amount of resources that community gets would be disproportionate to its size.
"The more people that are counted on this island, and in this area, [the] more funding for roads, hospitals, schools—all that stuff that we need," said Farmer.
City Manager Erin Reinders similarly encouraged the community to respond and to spread the word about the census. She said getting accurate information about the community is of great importance—particularly during a public health emergency and economic crisis.
"Decisions are made on matters of national and local importance based [on] information gathered from census data," said Reinders. "An accurate count is important because federal and state funding is allocated to communities using this data."
Deputy tribal administrator for the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska, Charlene Shaishnikoff, added that it's especially important for tribal members to properly fill out their census forms. She said tribal members should mark the "Alaska Native" option and then fill in the box with their tribe in Question 9 — which asks about race — in order to get appropriate funding and accurate representation.
And if community members are hesitant to speak with an enumerator, she suggested that they fill out the information on the Census Bureau's website, if they have access to the internet.
Farmer said enumerators will continue to visit the homes of Unalaskans who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. They will be asking community members to fill out a brief 10 question form about their household.
You can find out more information by visiting the U.S. Census website.