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The 2020 Census is trying to pick up where it left off when COVID-19 made its presence known in the country just a few months ago. Now, as reporting numbers are reviewed, a problem has been discovered for the rural states like North Dakota.

“We have been notified that the Census website is not correctly counting people who self-responded on the website without a 12-digit ID,” Cavalier County Job Development Executive Director Shannon Duerr said.

Duerr, along with Langdon City Auditor RoxAnne Hoffarth, co-chair the local complete count committee for the county. This is the group that provides the information from the Census Bureau to the community.

“We are just the messenger/conduit,” Duerr said

Duerr explained that when COVID-19 hit, many census offices - including those that were going to be mailing or dropping of census packets with every household’s 12-ID number - were closed. The Census Bureau then asked communities to inform their residents to respond online using their address and that the 12-digit ID was not needed. However, this turned out to not work in rural areas like Cavalier County and most of North Dakota.

“People who have a PO Box or use a 911 type address were not being counted correctly,” explained Duerr.

Those people should have received a packet at their door (not through the mail) this week or will be receiving one soon. (That packet includes the letter shown). While this letter says “if you have already responded, thank you and if you haven’t respond use this packet”, Duerr stressed that this letter is incorrect. Residents that receive a packet with the 12 digit ID number should respond to the Census using that packet or online with their individual 12 digit ID number.

"If you have a 911 address, a PO Box, or your community has at one time used PO Boxes but now uses a street address, you will need to respond again either using the paper packet or by going online and entering the 12 digit ID,” Duerr said.

This impacts a huge portion of Cavalier County with nearly half the residents living outside the most populated area. Duerr explained that it appears the City of Langdon is being counted correctly, but all rural areas and other communities are not being accurately counted which is why the response rates in those areas is so low despite many saying they have taken the Census.

“We realize having to respond again is an inconvenience. We are frustrated, too, and concerned about this new way of doing things. Remember this is the first census you can take online, and they didn’t take how addressing is done in rural areas into account,” said Duerr.

Even so, responding to the Census is incredibly important to the very rural areas this issue is affecting the most. These numbers impact how federal funding is distributed for important things like schools, hospitals, roads, and much more. Duerr stressed the need to make sure rural areas are not under-counted and consequently underfunded.

“The Census is still very important, so we hope you will take the time to take it again,” Duerr stated.

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