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Martin County census response: 72 percent

FAIRMONT — With only a couple of weeks left for residents to be included in the 2020 census count, about one-quarter of Martin County residents have not yet responded.

According to Linsey Preuss, Fairmont economic development coordinator, who is leading the local Complete Count Committee for the census, Martin County has a 72 percent self-response rate. Those residents took it upon themselves to complete their census questionnaire by mail, phone or online. The statewide average is just over 74 percent.

“We really encourage people to fill out the census, which can be done by going online to www.my2020census.gov or by calling (844) 330-2020,” Preuss said. “We want to make sure that people are answering these questions. It only takes a couple of minutes, but the response really impacts our community for the next 10 years. It locks us in for the next 10 years, and that’s a long time.”

Fairmont’s population registered at 10,666 in the 2010 census, classifying the city as a “micropolis,” an urban area with a population between 10,000 and 50,000 residents. Everything from legislative representation, to grant money, to attracting new businesses and residents could be impacted if Fairmont’s population falls below that 10,000 mark in the 2020 tally.

“We want to make sure that we don’t lose benefits that we already have,” Preuss said. “It’s not even about adding something new. We just don’t want to lose what we already have.”

The census originally was scheduled to be conducted from February through May, but when COVID-19 disrupted those plans, the federal government extended the deadline to Sept. 30.

The local volunteer committee, comprised of representatives from government, business, education and the private sector, also was forced to revamp its planned marketing at community events to encourage census response.

“Everything basically stopped, and we had to rely on the partnerships that we had,” Preuss said. “We worked with Faribault and Martin County Human Services, local clergy organizations, the library, the police department, the schools. We had flyers printed, and we asked them to try and get the information out for us as best they could.”

The group used social media, media advertising and even a banner on the Prairie Lakes Transit bus.

Now the government has sent out “door knockers” to canvass those homes that have not yet responded to the census.

“Census data cannot be given to or used by any other agency, not federal, not state, not local. It is all very private,” Preuss noted.

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