April 2020 Census Project Update

The 2020 Census is well underway, with more than half of American households having already self-responded, mostly online and via phone. However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to ripple through the decennial, leading to a historic delay in field operations.

Further, the Administration proposed to postpone the statutory deadlines (13 U.S. Code § 141) for reporting census results. According to the statement from U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham, “In order to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau is seeking statutory relief from Congress of 120 additional calendar days to deliver final apportionment counts. Under this plan, the Census Bureau would extend the window for field data collection and self-response to October 31, 2020, which will allow for apportionment counts to be delivered to the President by April 30, 2021, and redistricting data to be delivered to the states no later than July 31, 2021.”

(The Bureau posted a full adjusted operational plan.)

Four former Census Directors responded with support for the extended operations and urged Congress “to act in concert with it.”

Leaders of the census oversight committee in the House of Representatives expressed a willingness to enact necessary legislation to extend operations. However, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12), chairwoman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, while supporting the delay late last week, also pressed the Census Bureau to provide more information about the implications of the delayed field operations and extended 2020 Census schedule. In response, on April 27, Census Bureau Director Dillingham briefed members of the Oversight and Reform Committee.


With the Census Bureau having to postpone so many decennial operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Census Project wanted to make sure that any extra dollars necessary to complete a full and accurate 2020 Census would get secured from Congress as soon as possible. That was why we wrote to Director Dillingham on April 9, strongly urging him, if he was “considering a supplemental funding request for the national headcount… to convey that need to Congressional appropriators immediately.”

Shortly thereafter, the Census Bureau announced further delays in field operations and estimated that the additional cost of coping with COVID-19 (e.g., protective gear for field staff, extra equipment for added enumerators, additional advertising, and extended office leases) and their adjustments to the operational timeline, will be $1.5 billion.

The Bureau can theoretically cover those costs with their estimated $2 billion contingency funds and the Administration has not requested further funding. However, stakeholders are concerned that 2020 Census operations may end up requiring even more resources and that Congress should consider supplemental funding now, rather than waiting for the fall, particularly with the pandemic sidelining significant Congressional activity. The Census Project’s upcoming stakeholder sign-on letter for Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations for the Census Bureau will include a request for additional funding, particularly since 2020 Census field operations will stretch significantly into Fiscal Year 2021.

In a similar vein, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), drafted a sign-on letter to urge leaders in the Senate to consider providing the Bureau with “additional funding” to address costs associated with the extended 2020 Census operations. At press time, the letter was being circulated for Senators’ signatures.

Also, at press time, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee had not confirmed if or when the FY 2021 CJS appropriations bills will be considered.

2020 Census in the News

The Census Bureau recently released their “Detailed Operational Plan for the Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) Operations” for the 2020 Census. The PES is how the Bureau judges how well they did in a decennial headcount.

The Brookings Institution laid out predictions for what we can expect to see from the results of Census 2020.

A new fact sheet from the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC shows when and how the apportionment results will be released (including the current proposed revised schedule) and who is included in the count.

The U.S. Census Bureau has launched “two new experimental surveys to measure temporal social and economic trends in the nation’s small businesses and households over the next three months” to “provide insight into the scope of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response on social and economic measures in the U.S.” While plenty of researchers are running studies of such nature during the COVID-19 crisis, few are likely to reach the Census Bureau’s scale.

Legislative updates

Recognizing that the Census Bureau “has emergency and disaster-related contingency plans for the decennial operation,” the Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently wrote to the Census Bureau Director requesting information about how the Census Bureau is adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK-05) introduced H.Res. 872, a resolution to recognize “the vital importance of Native American participation in the 2020 decennial census of population.”

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA-03) introduced H.R. 6446, legislation that would authorize the President (not the Secretary of Commerce) to suspend 2020 Census activities during the COVID-19 crisis and to delay the statutory reporting deadlines for census results. The period of the crisis would be defined as “beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on the earlier of— (1) the date on which the President, in consultation with the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, determines that the threat of COVID–19 has subsided such that a suspension pursuant to subsection (a) is no longer necessary; or (2) the date on which the national emergency declared on March 13, 2020, and relating to COVID–19 is terminated pursuant to section 202 of the National Emergencies Act.”

 Census Bureau updates

On April 1, the nation marked Census Day, the day that determines who is counted in the 2020 Census and where they are counted.

The U.S. Census Bureau implemented social distancing measures and staffing adjustments to help protect the health and safety of 2020 Census call center employees. To increase call center capacity, the Census Bureau is reinstating the callback option and making more employees available to respond to requests. The callback option enables callers to leave a message and receive a timely call back from a census taker to process their 2020 Census response when all call center agents are busy assisting others. The Census Bureau had temporarily turned off the callback option due to staffing adjustments.

The U.S. Census Bureau began to send reminder notice postcards to an estimated 69 million households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. Some areas where census takers were originally going to personally hand deliver forms will now receive a letter in the mail from the Census Bureau reminding them to participate, including many households in Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Census Bureau released the total number of 2020 Census paid temporary workers that earned any pay between April 12-18, 2020, April 5-11, 2020, March 29-April 4, 2020, and March 22-28, 2020.

Census Bureau data releases

The U.S. Census Bureau released a new resource page on census.gov to help federal agencies, businesses and communities make decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a new interactive data hub.

The Bureau released new tables from the 2019 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

The 2018 Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) provides data about manufacturing that are crucial for accurate estimates of domestic production and productivity and to making sound decisions on economic trade policies. Companies, business analysts and trade associations use this data in planning investments, production and marketing.

The Bureau released a weekly regional Business Formation Statistics (BFS) series. “Due to the overwhelming response from our data users and requests for state-level data, we researched and developed a state-level weekly series.” The updated weekly BFS includes “business application data at the national, regional and state levels through the week ending April 11, 2020.” It started the weekly releases on April 8.

New findings were released from the Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE) program, which is the only source for single-year estimates of the number of people with and without health insurance coverage for each of the nation’s 3,141 counties.

News You Can Use

Below are several articles posted on The Census Project home page in March. For a complete listing, go to: https://thecensusproject.org/recent-media/.

2020 census internet self-response exceeds goals amid pandemic
Federal News Network
April 29, 2020

Census says restart to field operations will be in phases
Associated Press
April 27, 2020

The Many Potential Consequences Of A Delayed Census During Coronavirus
Associated Press
April 26, 2020

Spotify and text-a-thons: How the census is reaching out during coronavirus
April 23, 2020

Extend the Census Deadline to Protect Vulnerable Children
Scientific American
April 20, 2020

It’s clear where college students are counted in the 2020 census, but not others who moved due to COVID-19
April 17, 2020

Delays in 2020 U.S. census generate rare consensus
April 14, 2020

Trump Officials Ask To Delay Census Data For Voting Districts, House Seats
April 13, 2020

State Census Response Rate Better Than 10 Years Ago But Rural Counties Lag
April 9, 2020

COVID and the Count: Funders Confront New Challenges to the 2020 Census
Inside Philanthropy
April 9, 2020

Yes, the Census Bureau still needs workers
Dayton Daily News
April 6, 2020

It’s the Official Start to the 2020 Census. But No One Counted On a Pandemic.
The New York Times
April 2, 2020