What you need to know before 2020 census starts in Alaska

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U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham addresses state and Alaska Native leaders Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. Dillingham will travel to Toksook Bay, on an island just off Alaska's western coast, for the first count on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The 2020 Census kicks off Tuesday in remote Alaska. U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham will be there to conduct the first count in the Bering Sea community of Toksook Bay.

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WHY IS THE 2020 CENSUS STARTING IN ALASKA?

With its sparse population and subzero temperature, rural Alaska can be hard to reach, and some of its villages are accessible only when the ground is frozen. So, the Census Bureau starts the head count in The Last Frontier state by going door-to-door in January — more than two months before the rest of the nation — so it can make sure it reaches villages before the spring thaw, when residents head out to fish and hunt. The state's heritage is traditionally on display during these first counts. In 2000, then-U.S. Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt arrived for the first count in the village of Unalakleet as a passenger in a dog sled. This year, Alaska Native dancers from Toksook Bay will perform.

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WHEN DOES IT START ELSEWHERE?

Residents in the rest of the U.S., as well as the rest of Alaska, can start responding online and by telephone in mid-March. The Census Bureau plans to send out a first round of notices explaining how to participate during the second week of March. It will send up to four more rounds of mailings, including a paper questionnaire, in March and April to households that haven't responded.

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