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Low Census response rate in Northern Wisconsin, likely temporary, due to COVID-19 response

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- The 2020 Census is well underway, with Wisconsin and Minnesota leading the nation in response rates.

The badger state has an average response rate of 68.6 percent of households. Marathon, Wood, and Portage Counties have a response rate of 75 percent or more.

Several Complete Count Committees exist throughout the country to ensure everyone is accounted for.

Kathy Groeschel is a liaison for the committee in Wausau. She said it's a team effort, "Individuals from education, from non-profits, from church, faith-based organizations that have all convened."

Meanwhile, less than half of the households in Northern Wisconsin have responded.

Why is there such a stark difference?

U.S. Census Bureau Chicago Regional Director Marilyn Sanders said it has to do with how the bureau responded to COVID-19. "We stopped the operations in terms of delivering the questionnaire to a lot of the rural areas and that is primarily in Northern Wisconsin where you have both American Indian areas and of course you have more rural areas," said Sanders.

Those operations have now resumed and the 2020 Census timeline has been adjusted.

Why is the Census Important?

First off, it's a civic duty required by the United States Constitution.

The data collected in the census determines congressional representation for Wisconsin, on the federal level.

The data influences federal funding. In 2016, Wisconsin received over twelve billion dollars in federal spending guided by the 2010 Census, according to a report from George Washington University.

The information also plays a role in redistricting, which will come after the Census is completed and delivered to the president in April of 2021.

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Tom Lally

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