January marks the start of the census for the state, with the decennial count of the country’s population beginning in rural sections of Alaska.
The population count in rural Alaska begins before anywhere else in the United States.
Jason Chapman, census field manager, was at the training, which is specifically for travel enumerators who will visit remote Alaska in the next few weeks. The Census Bureau is hiring local enumerators in all of the villages as well, who will be helping with the process, but travel enumerators are trained on some other processes, such as address canvassing, where census staff go and check to make sure all buildings are accounted for.
“The census enumerates people by knowing where they live essentially and starting there,” Chapman said, “and so when we go out to the villages, we’ll be checking all of the housing counts that we have to make sure houses are in the right place, to make sure that we haven’t missed anything — and that’s what these folks are being trained to do, just as well as the enumerator questionnaire.”
The Census Bureau has been working with rural villages and other agencies for months to establish a communication channel, according to Chapman, and make sure everyone knows what’s going on.
“The first thing that we do when we go out there is coordinate with village leadership, and, when we’re all finished, we review. We do an overview of our work to see if we’ve missed any areas and give the village leadership a chance to correct anything that we might have missed as far as housing goes,” he said, adding that their No. 1 priority is making sure everyone is counted.
Toksook Bay is the location for the first enumeration. Then, immediately after, enumerators move through the other remote locations in the state.
“We have more than 100 travel teams that we’ll be sending out,” Chapman said. “Not exactly at the same time, but they’re slightly offset.”
There are lots of places that qualify as remote Alaska locations, some that are even attached to the highway system, according to Chapman. The state is broken into smaller geographies, and teams will work within a given geography.
The Census Bureau is still hiring workers for operations that take place throughout the year. If travel is required, workers get a per diem, according to Chapman, who said it’s a fantastic way to help the community and make sure it gets counted.
“So if we want to make sure we get everybody, then we try to engage local folks to help us,” he said.
Other locations will begin receiving invitations to participate in the census beginning in mid-March.
Workers begin traveling for enumeration in about a week. Training continues at the library through next week.
“The library has been absolutely amazing. They have been so gracious, with the weather that we’ve been having all across the state in the last week or so, I could not ask for a better place for these folks to meet and get trained on this stuff,” Chapman said, “so we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the library for loaning us this space. It’s been fantastic.”
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal