Montana Public Radio

U.S. Census Bureau

As an uncertain deadline for the census looms, organizers and Get Out the Count workers are rushing to get as many people counted as possible.

Just off the interstate, in Crow Agency, workers wearing masks and carrying clipboards help drivers fill out census forms. To socially distance, one worker speaking in Apsáalooke, the Crow language, explains the form through the passenger side window.

Today, they're offering cold Pepsies and Visa gift cards to those who stop, as an incentive for citizens to learn about the census and get their family counted.

As Montana continues to lag behind the national census response rate, members of hard to reach rural communities are counting themselves in grocery stores, libraries and bars. The once-a-decade count decides millions of dollars in federal funding and could boost Montana’s representation in Congress.

Thirsty customers start meandering into 2 Bassett Brewing in White Sulphur Springs on a recent weekday evening.

Advocates for incarcerated Montanans gathered at the Capitol Monday to speak against how the correctional system fills out census forms on behalf of inmates.

Last month, activists found the Montana Department of Corrections had not included tribal affiliation when filling out census forms for incarcerated Native Americans. They say an inaccurate census count will result in insufficient funding for tribal services, such as healthcare and schools, during the next decade.

Montana’s U.S. Senators are urging congressional leadership to extend the 2020 census response deadline, which they say is necessary to ensure all Montanans are counted.

In letters sent this week to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Republican Steve Daines and Democrat Jon Tester ask that an extension be included in the next coronavirus relief package.

The U.S. Census Bureau is still seeking to hire hundreds of temporary, part-time workers in Montana by the end of August.

After extending the deadline for a complete count due to COVID-19, the Census Bureau reversed course and bumped the deadline up to Sept. 30th. An estimated 40 percent of Montana’s population still needs to be counted.

State officials are worried a new sped up federal deadline could jeopardize Montana’s chances of getting an accurate census total. The once a decade count has large implications for the Treasure State.

In April, the U.S. Census Bureau announced it would push the counting deadline back a month to Oct. 31 because the coronavirus pandemic had halted field operations across the U.S.

Monday, the bureau said counting will end Sept. 30 after all.

Montanas are being asked to report Census data online or by phone even without receiving a specialized ID code to begin the process.
U.S. Census Bureau

On Tuesday, the Montana Department of Commerce announced the state is spending roughly $500,000 of federal coronavirus relief money to boost 2020 Census outreach.

Montanans self-response rate is just over 56%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s behind the national average. State officials said Montanan’s Census response is complicated in part by the rural nature of the state

Indigenous people were undercounted across the country in the 2010 Census. Ten years later, the United States Census Bureau says it’s increasing its efforts to ensure an accurate count.

Montana’s census response rate is 56 percent, trailing the national average of 62 percent. Looking closer at the numbers, some of the lowest response rates are among reservation residents. At 42 percent, Flathead has the highest response rate, while less than five percent of Northern Cheyenne residents have been counted.


Montana has the seventh lowest 2020 Census return rate among all states after one fifth of its households weren’t initially mailed invitations to participate. Counting has been especially difficult in rural reaches of the Treasure State.

Montanas are being asked to report Census data online or by phone even without receiving a specialized ID code to begin the process.
U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau says that area offices in 13 states will reopen for limited field operations this week, including one in Billings. MTPR reports Montana is one of a few states where the Census count has experienced severe setbacks in light of the pandemic.