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Walla Walla, Columbia counties see highest census response rate in the state.

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Walla Walla and Columbia counties lead census response statewide

Walla Walla County is getting a gold star so far for the number of 2020 census surveys residents have returned.

The Blue Mountain Complete Count Committee formed to get higher census responses from residents are seeing good results in only the second week of the national count, officials said.

Walla Walla County’s self-response rate was 25.9% at last count, about 7% higher than Washington state and national numbers in the 2020 census.

Columbia County’s rate is 26.7%.

The rates reflect the percentage of homes that responded to the census online, by phone or by mail.

The nationwide 10-question survey is used to understand current population demographics and how government funding will be allocated to states and counties.

Walla Walla County was considered hard to count in the previous census in 2010. Tracts divide the county into 12 and three of those, near the penitentiary, were considered difficult to get a response.

“The average response in all 12 census tracts was a little under 85%,” Cindy Widmer, project coordinator for Complete Count, said of the 2010 census.

In Walla Walla County, the final response rate for that census was 69.9%. In Columbia County, it was 66.1%.

Census data is important to the community, Widmer said, because for each person who does not complete a survey means up to $1,910 lost in funding each year for 10 years.

Census data also is used for legislation, zoning for schools and population benchmarks, and helps businesses decide where to locate, said Juan Sanchez, Complete Count census coordinator.

Food assistance programs, school programs, Pell grants and Medicaid for children are among many other matters affected by census results, he said.

In the 2010 census, Washington state gained a U.S. House Representative because of higher population numbers, he said.

Sanchez has been giving presentations around the county and handing out stickers, buttons and flyers to urge responses to the 2020 census.

Complete Count also has a social media campaign and has met with city and county officials to promote the census.

Many planned outreach and education events, however, have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanchez said.

Also, the U.S. Census Bureau has suspended its field operations and extended the online self-response deadline from July 31 to August 14, said Lisa McLean, who heads the Washington state census effort for the Office of Financial Management.

To fill out the census go to my2020census.gov or call 1-844-330-2020, which will give response options in 11 languages.

Depending on the status of the pandemic, census takers are to begin visiting homes of non-responders in May. The Census Bureau, however, continues to recruit workers. Those who are interested in doing field work may apply online at 2020census.gov/jobs.

Chloe LeValley can be reached at chloelevalley@wwub.com or 509-526-8326.

Chloe LeValley covers civic engagement in the Walla Walla Valley including city governments, county commissioners and other civic groups. She is a recent graduate from San Francisco State University and came to join our team in October 2019.