Action follows recent Census Bureau announcement ‘disregarding previous bipartisan agreement and suddenly ending field data collection’
Congressman Brian Higgins joined a group of 89 members Monday calling on congressional leadership to include funding for the census in the next COVID-19 relief package, accompanied by a necessary extension to census reporting deadlines. The letter follows a recent announcement by the Census Bureau to suddenly end field data collection by Sept. 30.
Higgins and other members signing the letter wrote, “Rushing census operations without an extension means that some populations will remain uncounted or will not be counted accurately, impacting all of our districts and communities. An accurate census count is critical for both Republican and Democratic districts – and rural districts may suffer tremendously without.” They later continued, “Extending the statutory deadline will allow the Census Bureau to continue household counting operations through October 31, complete special counting operations thoroughly, and review, process, and tabulate the data in accordance with the Bureau’s own quality standards. Communities and census workers deserve the time needed to produce a complete count.”
Current data presented in the Census Bureau Response Rate Map shows 2020 census self-response rates remain undercounted, with Erie County reporting 67.7% and Niagara County reporting 68.1% of residents accounted for. The letter emphasizes that a poorly executed census with an undercounted population would hurt a diverse range of rural and urban communities, impact congressional representation, and cut federal funding for services like schools, infrastructure improvements, economic development, Medicaid, and countless other vital programs.
The letter requests the next COVID-19 relief package modify the 2020 census deadline to transmit state population totals to April 30, 2021, instead of the Trump administration’s newly expedited deadline of Sept. 30, 2020, citing 37% of households remain uncounted due to complications surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. This uncounted population includes some of the hardest-to-reach populations such as rural communities, low-income households, people of color, American Indians living on tribal lands, immigrants, and young children. The letter also requested the next COVID-19 package to invest $400 million in federal funding to address the continued challenges of conducting a complete and accurate census during a pandemic.
In a letter signed by four former U.S. Census Bureau directors calling upon Congress to extend the deadline, the directors stated that “failing to extend the deadlines to April 30, 2021 will result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across the country.”
Census Bureau staffers previously stated they need additional time to complete the census in all communities, and to process and tabulate the data in accordance with the bureau’s quality standards. The Census Bureau developed a thorough adjusted plan in light of COVID-19-related disruptions, in partnership with local officials and nearly 400,000 partner organizations.