Montana lawmakers push for census deadline extension, urge completion

MISSOULA, Mont. — Montana politicians are urging the U.S. Census Bureau to reconsider a new deadline to end data collection, which is one month earlier than planned.

The announcement came Monday, with the bureau saying field data collection will stop Sept. 30 to meet an end-of-year deadline.

Gov. Steve Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney sent a letter to the U.S. commerce secretary urging the Census Bureau to stick with the original extended October deadline. They say 525,000 Montanans haven’t yet been counted. Montana has one of the lowest response rates in the country.

Cooney, the chairman of the Montana Census Complete Count Committee, attributes much of that to the fact that 25% of Montanans don’t have a traditional mailing address, and the Census doesn’t mail to P.O. boxes.

“We’re hoping to get a good response, and we’re hoping that they will listen to what we are saying and finally come to the realization that they need to continue to look at the Oct. 31 deadline and give us until that time in order to get a full count,” Cooney said about the letter. “If they don’t, it’s not good for the country, it’s certainly not good for Montana, and it’s not good for our people.

Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines both sent Congressional leadership letters asking for the next COVID-19 response package to include new deadlines back to Oct. 31. A spokesperson for Rep. Greg Gianforte said he’s working with federal officials to make sure everyone is counted and encourages all Montanans to fill out their census forms as soon as possible.

The original planned schedule for nonresponse follow-up was May 13 through July 31. The September deadline means the same amount of time, but leaders are concerned it will take a larger effort because of the pandemic.

If you haven’t responded to the census yet, you can complete your form by clicking here or calling 844-330-2020.