How the 2020 Census benefits San Juan County, islanders

How the 2020 Census benefits San Juan County, islanders

Submitted by the Office of Rick Larsen

As islanders continue social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19, you are probably wondering how to help your community from home. One easy, impactful way to help? Fill out and return your 2020 Census.

By now, Washingtonians should have received an invitation to participate in the Census. Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates a Census counting everyone who lives in the United States occur every ten years. The Founders included the Census in the Constitution because they wanted a government that represents and works for the people.

The 2010 Census counted 17,582 residents living in the San Juan Islands, and that number is only expected to grow after the 2020 Census is complete. However, due to COVID-19, many activities intended to encourage Islanders to respond to the Census have been canceled. As of this writing, San Juan County’s 2020 Census response rate was only 31.3 percent, well below the state’s overall response rate of 58.8 percent.

Fortunately, there are three ways to fill out your Census from home: By returning the form you received in the mail, by calling 1-800-923-8282, or by visiting The Census is safe to fill out and federal law protects the confidentiality of the information you provide to the Census Bureau.

But why is the Census important? Accurate Census data can help create jobs, stimulate economic growth and increase employment opportunities in San Juan County. Local, state and Federal governments use Census data to allocate nearly $675 billion in funding across the country. Accurate household and population data can help dictate how much federal funding local communities receive to build affordable housing. Age data help determine funding for building schools, the Head Start program, grants to support teachers and special education and nutrition programs for students and seniors. Local businesses, especially businesses who benefit from seasonal tourism, can use Census data to help make informed decisions on how to market themselves or where to expand.

We may be biased, but we believe the San Juan Islands are among the most beautiful places in the country. Without an accurate count of all people living on the islands, local communities will not receive their fair share of federal funding for housing, education, public health, and emergency services. Without an accurate Census, it will be harder to access the services and programs that residents rely on every day.

Filling out your Census – by mail, by phone or online at – only takes a few minutes, but the impact will be felt on the islands for the next decade. Your participation can make a difference. Do your part and support your community. Thank you for your participation in the 2020 Census and for making San Juan County a better place to live.

Signed by council members Rick Hughes council chair, Bill Watson, and Jamie Stephens.