Census workers hit the ground in northern Wisconsin

Congressional representation and federal spending relies on a complete count every 10 years.

The 2020 census will determine whether Minnesota and Wisconsin will retain eight seats each in the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Census Bureau photo

People who haven't responded to the 2020 U.S. Census survey should get ready for a knock at the door.

In fact, census takers could be knocking up to six times between Tuesday, Aug. 11 and Sept. 30 to ensure an accurate count of Wisconsin’s population, according to Ellisa Johnson, deputy director of the Chicago Regional Census Center. The center oversees the decennial count in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

“We’re urging people to fill out the form, or go online or call in,” Johnson said. “It’s important for people to know it’s safe, it’s easy, it’s confidential, it takes under 10 minutes.”

And it is required by the U.S. Constitution, which mandates the country conduct a count of the population once every 10 years. The first count was conducted in 1790, making the 2020 Census the 24th time the country’s population has been counted.

Everyone living in the United States and its five territories is required to be counted.


According to the response rates published online by the U.S. Census Bureau, about 63% of households nationwide have already responded to the survey sent out in March. In Wisconsin, the figure is 69.6%. However, Douglas County’s self-response rate is lower than the state average at 63.1%, despite a 78% percent self-response rate in Superior.

The U.S. Census Bureau has continued to evaluate its process and hired more employees to accelerate the completion of data collection as a result of the pandemic, according to U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham. The goal is to improve the speed of the count without sacrificing completeness, he said.

Field data collection will end Sept. 30 and self-response options will also be closed so permit data processing can start.

The completed apportionment counts are due to the U.S. secretary of commerce by Dec. 31.

“A complete count ensures that all of our states have proper congressional representation,” Johnson said. “It’s certainly important to make sure we have that representation for all of our states, but also there’s also $675 billion dollars at stake.”

The Census plays a role in how federal funding is distributed geographically.

According to a study by Andrew Reamer, a research professor at the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, Wisconsin received more than $12.6 billion in federal funding in 2016 to pay for Medicaid, student loans and Pell grants, Medicare, food and housing assistance, infrastructure improvements and employment programs, among other programs. The study estimated that Wisconsin lost $1,338 for every person missed in the 2010 Census.

“It’s very important that we have a complete count because $675 billion is a lot of funding,” Johnson said. “We want to make sure that Wisconsin’s portion of that $675 billion will be available following the 2020 Census.”


Johnson said thousands of Census Bureau staff will be hitting the ground starting Aug. 11 in northern Wisconsin to reach households that haven’t responded to the survey yet.

“Of course, we’ll have on masks and gloves, their ID and a Census satchel,” Johnson said. “We want people to look for that to make sure they are indeed talking to a Census employee if they happen to receive a knock on the door.”

The photo ID has a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date.

The Census Bureau will never ask for Social Security, bank or credit card numbers, political party affiliation or for money or donations.

Johnson encouraged anyone with doubts about a Census Bureau representative to contact local law enforcement or call 844-330-2020 if you suspect fraud.

“We try to make sure we’re working with local law enforcement so that they know we have staff on the ground as well,” Johnson said.

People can still respond by filling out the Census form they received in the mail in March. They can mail it back, fill it out online at or by calling 844-330-2020.

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