Kathie Bailey chosen for state census committee

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

Kathie Bailey stands near the entrance of the Broadway Apartments building in Lewistown, just one of the Central Montana properties she has assisted during her time with Snowy Mountain Development Corporation.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

It’s a year and a half away, but Montana is already preparing for the 2020 U.S. Census, and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney has appointed local Kathie Bailey as a co-chair on the state’s census promotion committee.

Named the Complete Count Committee, the group’s job is to promote the census and the important role it plays in federal program. The end goal, according to Cooney, is to get as many residents as possible to complete the count.

“The task of this committee is to basically reach out  to the public and let them know how important it is for them to respond to the census,” he said.

While it may not be the most exciting task for Montanans, Cooney said the census does have a direct impact on the state’s residents: The final survey numbers eventually translate into funding dollars.

“We figure that in the 2020 count, every person who is not counted will cost the state about $2,000 for each year of the 10-year [census] period,” he said. “That is a lot of money. Price Waterhouse Cooper estimated in the last census count we probably missed over 14,000 people living in Montana.”

Doing the math, Cooney said, shows a big loss for the state.

“That added up to about $21 million in lost federal funding dollars to the state,” he said.

So now Cooney and the Committee are searching for those missing people.

“There are two real major groups where we’ve always been challenged getting a complete count,” he said. “One is on tribal lands, as well as rural Montana, so I felt that it would be very important that our co-chairs should have connections with those two groups.”

Kathie Bailey’s name came up quickly for rural Montana. So did her efforts in economic development, her term as a Fergus county commissioner and her work as executive director of Snowy Mountain Development Corporation.

“She’s done tremendous work for that area of the state,” he said.

Bailey learned of the appointment as one of two co-chairs in late February, and sought approval from the SMDC Board of Directors before accepting. That did not dull her excitement, however, especially when it came to the rural insights she feels she can offer.

“I believe firmly in the need for rural communities to be counted,” she said. “We are underrepresented a lot of times, and we want to be sure we’re represented in Montana.”

Bailey is familiar with rural challenges, including internet access, or lack thereof. That, she said, will play a big role in the 2020 census, because the first part of the count will be held exclusively online.

“I worry about how rural people will be able to respond to that,” she said.

It may be difficult, but Bailey hopes her experiences help the Complete Count Committee address any rural issues. Especially, she added, because of how important census numbers can be for rural areas.

“That’s how funding programs are allocated,” she said. “That’s how they determine who represents us in Washington, D.C. It’s also the information we [at SMDC] use on a daily basis.”

Bailey has already started working as committee co-chair, but clarified the position is volunteer-based, and will not require her to leave SMDC.

“We will have a representative at the board is what this will mean,” she said. “What this is is an honor.”

After all, Bailey said she isn’t ready to leave the work she’s enthusiastic for.

“My passion is the community,” she said. “My passion is seeing this whole Central Montana area prosper and thrive with good, affordable jobs.”

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