The 2020 census is fast approaching, and Becker County is stepping up to make sure as many people as possible are counted, since it can have a big financial impact locally.

“It’s important for citizens to understand why it’s important,” said Guy Fischer, economic development coordinator for the county. “It brings funding into our county.”

Census results, collected once a decade, help guide the destination of more than $675 billion in federal funding that goes to states and communities every year. And the results are used to redraw political district lines.

The county is in the process of setting up a census committee, which will be staffed by Fischer and County Administrator Mike Brethorst and appointed by the County Board. The county will pay mileage for committee members to attend meetings.

“The aim is to accentuate the census process the feds will be providing,” Fischer said. “Working with their efforts to improve the census information the feds are doing.” Having people involved who know the local terrain can really help boost census participation rates, Fischer said.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

The response rate in Becker County during the last census in 2010 was just 70 percent (79 percent in Detroit Lakes) and local officials hope to raise that participation rate this time around, since it will have a big impact on federal funds coming into the area over the next 10 years.

“Some towns and some areas of the county had less participation in the 2010 census than in 2000,” Fischer said. “The committee will decide what area to target (to improve that rate).”

Help wanted

The federal census process will also involve hiring lots of local workers. “About 300 new hires will be associated with this effort in Becker County in 2020,” Fischer said. “The feds start out with about 40 people hired locally (this year) and then just keep ramping it up through the year and into next year, when the rubber hits the road.”

Jobs include census takers, recruiting assistants, office staff, and supervisory staff. To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years old, have a valid Social Security number, and be a U.S. citizen.

Candidates must complete an online job application. The application includes assessment questions about your education, work and other experience. For more information, visit the 2020 Census Jobs page

Privacy is guaranteed

Just like voting is done in secret, privacy is protected for those who participate in the census.

The law is clear — no personal information can be shared. Under federal law, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about individuals, households, or businesses, even to law enforcement agencies.

Information collected may only be used for statistical purposes and no other purpose. To support historical research, federal law allows the National Archives and Records Administration to release census records only after 72 years.

On top of that, all Census Bureau staff take a lifetime oath to protect your personal information, and any violation comes with a penalty of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison.