U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham addresses state and Alaska Native leaders Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. Dillingham will travel to Toksook Bay, on an island just off Alaska’s western coast, for the first count on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham addresses state and Alaska Native leaders Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. Dillingham will travel to Toksook Bay, on an island just off Alaska’s western coast, for the first count on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

Census deadline extended to Oct. 31

Alaskans will have until Oct. 31 to complete the census.

Alaskans will now have until Oct. 31 to complete the U.S. census.

On Friday, a federal court ruling said the Trump administration could not end the count on Sept. 30 and that they had to stick to the scheduled completion date of the last day of October. As a result, the deadline has been pushed back one month.

According to Alaska Counts, a nonpartisan census education initiative, this year’s census began on Jan. 21 in Toksook Bay. The state of Alaska had the lowest participation rate of any state in the country during the 2010 census at 64%, but rates by community vary.

“A similar undercount of our state in 2020 means Alaska will not receive its full share of federal funding for the following 10 years,” the Alaska Counts site says. “In the face of increasing state and local budget constraints, we cannot afford an undercount in 2020.”

According to Tim Dillon, the executive director of the Kenai Economic Development District, as of Sept. 24, the city of Soldotna had the highest census response rate of the Kenai Peninsula’s six incorporated communities at 59.9%. Kenai was second at 56.4% followed by Kachemak City at 52.5%, Seward at 50.8%, Homer at 49.5% and Seldovia at 35.2%.

The borough as a whole had a response rate of 43.7% and the state of Alaska had 54.0%, Dillon said.

The once-in-a-decade country population count is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and produces data that is used for a variety of purposes including legislative redistricting, federal funding and business decisions, according to the 2020 census website. Annually, census data is used to distribute over $800 billion in federal funding throughout the country in order to support resources like schools, hospitals and fire departments, according to Alaska Counts.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, sparsely populated areas in Alaska are traditionally the first to be counted because of the weather.

“Local census takers must get a head start while the frozen ground allows easier access to the remote areas with unique accessibility challenges,” reads a Bureau release from January. “The census takers may need to use a bush plane, dogsled, or snowmobile to access these areas.”

The census can be completed:

Online: Visit my2020census.gov.

By phone: Call 844-330-2020.

By mail: Mail back the paper questionnaire sent to your home.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com

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