The Alaska Federation of Natives is deeply concerned by Monday’s official announcementby the Census Bureau that it plans to cut the national count a month short, ending its operations on September 30.
Alaska’s response rate to the 2020 Census as of last week was the lowest in the country, at 49%. While that number does not include responses from rural Alaska, the Bureau has historically found that area hard to count. Including those numbers could further drop Alaska’s response rate.
“AFN has worked hard to help ensure rural Alaskans are accurately counted this time around,” said AFN President Julie Kitka. “Native peoples were undercounted by almost 5% in 2010, which diverted critical federal funding away from Alaska.”
Monday’s announcement is a significant departure from the updated schedule the Census Bureau released earlier this spring, extending the count to October 31 due to the Covid-19 outbreak. State, local and tribal governments, as well as partner organizations including AFN, have relied on that updated schedule. AFN, the only organization to conduct a statewide Census support campaign in rural Alaska, planned its operations around the later date.
AFN has been tracking this development since learning of it last week. On Tuesday, AFN authored a joint letter with the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund to U.S. House and Senate leadership opposing the condensed timeline.
“We are going to use every means at our disposal to ensure the Bureau restores the October deadline. The federal government owes Alaska Native and American Indian tribes a federal trust responsibility. Shortening the Census operations by a whole month, in the middle of a global pandemic and without any consultation, falls short of this responsibility,” Kitka said.