Buffalo Valley

Many Teton County residents live in remote areas like Buffalo Valley in Moran and don’t receive mail at their homes. That complicates getting people census materials, which officials say in part explains the county’s low response rate.

Teton County still has catching up to do on the census.

The county’s overall response rate is 29.2%, well under Wyoming’s statewide tally of 55.9%.

To say the response is lagging “would be an understatement,” Jackson Public Information Officer Carl Pelletier said, following with a pun: “Let’s talk some census into this county.”

Filling out the census is crucial, Pelletier said, for receiving federal funds for services ranging from paramedics and the fire department to early childhood development and after-school programs. Results will also guide redistricting, a process controlled by the state.

The numbers from this year’s survey will stick for 10 years. The next census is in 2030.

“You can’t say, ‘Let’s do it again next year,’” Pelletier said. “If our numbers are low, the less money we get.”

But the county’s low response rate might not be all residents’ fault.

Lily Griego, the 2020 census regional partnership coordinator for Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, said the way people receive census materials in Wyoming is different from other states because of its rural population. That’s equally true in Teton County, where many households receive mail at P.O. boxes and can’t receive the census’ usual “self response” mailer, which otherwise serves over 95% of the country.

The mailer is delivered only to physical addresses.

County residents who can’t receive mail at their physical addresses instead have census packets dropped by their door in an operation called “update leave.” A high percentage of Teton County dwellers live in areas that are contacted through that program.

Griego said the census was “two days” into update leave when the pandemic struck, halting the operation. It was recently finished, and she expects numbers to tick up.

Responding to a mailer isn’t the only way to respond. Teton County residents can also respond online at My2020Census.gov or over the phone at 844-330-2020.

Pelletier said those who want to respond online also don’t need a census ID that’s usually found in mailed materials to do so. You can bypass that by clicking the link that says “If you do not have a Census ID, click here” on the second page of the online form.

That’s something people miss, Pelletier said.

“You don’t need a code,” he added. “Keep looking for that button.”

Griego said the census will begin door knocks in August.

The national survey should wrap up by Halloween.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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