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REGIONAL — Traveling through Luverne, drivers may notice that the iconic bison at the gift shop Those Blasted Things (924 S. Kniss Ave.) is sporting some dapper new duds — an eye mask and a cape.

The bison is one of several statewide "census heroes" that serve as a visual reminder for residents to respond to the 2020 census if they have not yet done so.

Households that have not yet responded will receive a postcard in the mail this week with instructions about how to make sure they are counted.

Getting an accurate count of the United States population is critical, explained Minnesota partnership coordinator Sam Bettig, for three main reasons: government funding, political representation and business growth.

"Over $675 billion every year in federal funding is given based on census data," he said. State, county and city governments also use census information to make decisions.

Census numbers help draw the boundaries of Senate, House, county board, school board and other political districts, as well as determine the number of seats each state gets in Congress.

Businesses and non-profits look at census data when deciding whether to open a new store or expand broadband services.

So far, 71.7% of Minnesota households have responded to the census — meaning more than one in four households has not yet been counted. The form takes only a few minutes to complete.

Paper census forms were mailed in March and April, and anyone who still has that at home is welcome to respond to the census on paper. Other options are to respond online at my2020census.gov or by calling 1 (844) 330-2020. Phone lines are open 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. CST seven days a week, and information is collected through a live interview offered in 13 different languages. Respondents may also leave a callback number in lieu of spending time on hold.

Beginning August 11, census takers will be knocking on the doors of households who have not yet responded to the census. They will wear face masks and maintain proper social distance. Anyone who wishes to avoid a face-to-face visit should respond to the census before August.