Census undercount expected across Bakken region

Local News

Even though the deadline for the 2020 Census has been extended from this Wednesday to the end of October, those in North Dakota’s oil country fear the damage caused by the Coronavirus will have an impact for the next decade.

If you head to many of North Dakota’s oil producing counties, you’re sure to notice a common theme, less people and traffic on the roads and plenty of vacant apartment buildings.

You can blame the Coronavirus pandemic for that.

When the virus hit, global travel plunged, as did the demand and price of oil.

Jobs were lost and wells were shut.

Naturally, the workers who called parts of Northwest North Dakota home, began leaving at the worst possible time, right as the 2020 census was getting underway.

And Killdeer in Dunn County is a perfect example, KX News sat down with City Administrator Matt Oase who tells us most of their census related events also had to be canceled thanks to the pandemic.

“It was a perfect storm, it was the last thing you wanted to see regarding trying to have a 2020 census count as close to what your seeing in the city of Killdeer,” said Oase.

A look at recent census data as of Friday, shows the 2020 response rate compared to the same time last year, all down over 10-points in the four major oil counties of Dunn, Mountrail, McKenzie and Williams.

Dig deeper and it gets worse, Dunn County’s response rate sits at just 44%, 10 years ago they finished with a rate over 55%.

The self response rate in McKenzie county is just over half of what they finished with in 2010 and Williams and Mountrail Counties are on pace to finish well below their 2010 numbers.

And each person that fails to get counted means nearly $20,000 less per person in federal funding for these small towns over the next decade.

“$19,000 is no joke, and no matter what happens in our oil producing counties in this neck of the woods you’re gonna feel that, and it has a 10 year impact on so many different items,” said Oase.

An easy symbol of the problems facing Killdeer and many other oil cities across western North Dakota are dormant oil field trucks used by workers, and with no workers who all left because of the Coronavirus pandemic, scenes like rows of idle trucks, are all across the county.

But the news isn’t all bad, Kevin Iverson is the state’s Census Office Manager and tells KX News when oil prices eventually recover and people return to the Bakken, the feds will notice.

“As individuals move back into those areas as oil prices increase those numbers will most likely be captured in population estimates and those numbers will drive funding,” said Iverson.

He adds if you live in the Bakken and have yet to complete the census, make sure you do, the financial health of your community depends on it.

Oase tells us with less people and less federal funding, there’s a chance the city may be forced to raise taxes down the road to make up the difference.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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