New Report on the Importance of 2020 Census Response to New York City

The chairs of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Democratic Caucus released a staff report highlighting “the potential costs” of a 2020 Census “undercount for New York City” and stressing “the importance of New Yorkers completing their Census forms.”

According to the report, “Every person in New York City must be counted. The Census is used to distribute over $1.5 trillion in federal funding. An incomplete count could cost the City its fair share of that funding. Missing just one person in the City could reduce education funding by $2,295, and job training by $281.”

Moreover, “[i]f there is just a 1% undercount in 2020, the City’s schools could lose nearly $7.3 million in federal funding… the equivalent of all the textbooks that 29,000 students would need in a school year,” and if “there is just a 1% undercount in 2020, the City could lose more than 3.7 million in federal funding” for jobs programs.

Read the report: “It’s Time to Fill Out Your 2020 Census Form: Why a Complete Count is Essential for New York City.”

Pop-Up 2020 Census Helpers in West Virginia

With West Virginia at an overall self-response rate of 53 percent so far, and their local county at not even 40 percent, the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Wheeling recently held a “Pop Up Census.”

According to a news report, NAMI opened a “drop-in center” in Wheeling “to help anyone that walked in the door who might be on the fence about giving away personal information. Some community members may be homeless; some may not have access to a computer; and some may have been confused on how to get counted. But now all had resources at their fingertips.”

Pop-Up Census helping ALL get counted.” by Stephanie Grindley. WTRF. June 17, 2020.

College Towns Appeal for Help Picking up the 2020 Census Slack

As reported in The New York Times, “Reliant on institutions that once seemed impervious to recession, ‘town and gown’ communities that have evolved around rural campuses — Cornell, Amherst College, Penn State — are confronting not only Covid-19 but also major losses in population, revenue and jobs.”

That’s why the International Town & Gown Association (ITGA), National League of Cities (NLC), and International City/County Management Association (ICMA) recently wrote to Congressional leadership requesting assistance.

“As America experiences the harsh economic consequences of COVID-19, university and college towns also face another significant consequence: a Census undercount that could impact community quality of life for the next decade. We ask for your support to maintain an accurate 2020 Census count and help these communities.” In particular, the letter highlighted that, thanks to the coronavirus crisis, “large numbers of these university communities’ residents were absent on the day that matters the most, April 1, because many student-residents had moved out in March, when universities closed their campuses.”

The groups requested that Congress direct the Census Bureau to adjust 2020 Census methods to pick up the slack in university communities, and add “an Emergency COVID-19 Accurate Census Count Fund in addition to existing Census resources to allow communities with substantial shifts in their count, such as university communities, to directly apply for funds to complete a recount or take additional outreach actions to reach an acceptable response rate while socially distanced, such as remote ‘Get Out the Count’ activities,” as well as providing other financial assistance to university communities.

Senator Feinstein Calls on Census Bureau to Expand Media and Field Outreach

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) wrote recently to Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham with “concern about the potential for the COVID-19 pandemic to decrease participation in the 2020 Census and thereby lead to an undercount of our country’s population.” She urged him to “ensure that communities are counted accurately and completely by enhancing the U.S. Census Bureau’s media and field outreach plans.”

To “compensate for the absence of face-to-face communication that educates and encourages census participation,” thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Feinstein urged Dillingham to “consider” expanding the advertising campaign, increasing investment in hiring and training, increasing “capacity of the Census Questionnaire Assistance operation to receive census responses and answer questions from respondents,” and “avoid using administrative records for enumeration.”

Read the full letter.

Data-User Trust in 2020 Census Data Products

While suggesting that “there are still openings to regain trust of the data community and have Census data products that will be of provable high quality and protects the privacy of the respondents at the same time,” Jan Vink from the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics said he was “wary about the quantity and quality of the data.” His recent blog post called into question the Census Bureau’s rethinking on (1) “table shells: what tabulations to publish and what not to publish” and (2) differential privacy, while proposing what the Bureau could have done better and how it can try to rebuild data users’ trust.

It’s not too late to rebuild data-user trust in Census 2020 data products.” By Jan Vink. June 10, 2020.

New GAO Report Warns of Risks to 2020 Census Count from COVID-19

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the historic COVID-19-induced disruption to the 2020 Census warned that delays and changes to the headcount operations “present further risks to an accurate, timely, and cost-effective count.”

GAO recommended that the Census Bureau look at the following factors “to ensure the implementation and quality of the count”:

  • Continued attention to self-response;
  • Communicating pandemic plans to ensure continued operations;
  • Achieving and maintaining sufficient staffing levels;
  • Revising its approach to communications and partnerships;
  • Adjusting plans for Group Quarters and Service-Based Enumeration;
  • Monitoring ongoing risks to IT systems implementation;
  • Managing disinformation and misinformation;
  • Addressing cybersecurity weaknesses;
  • Protecting the privacy of respondent data;
  • Ensuring data quality under potentially compressed timeframes; and
  • Evaluating the impact of census delays on data quality.

“2020 Census: COVID-19 Presents Delays and Risks to Census Count.” June 2000. https://www.gao.gov/assets/710/707456.pdf

Prominent Rapper Urges Rioters to Instead Respond to the 2020 Census

During a press conference in Atlanta on May 29, 2020, the rapper Killer Mike urged rioters and looters to go home instead and fill out their census forms.

If you sit in your homes tonight instead of burning your homes to the ground, you will have time to properly plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize in an effective way. And two of the most effective ways are first taking your butt to your computer and making sure you fill out your census, so that people know who you are and where you are

Getting Out the Native American Count During the COVID-19 Crisis

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Native American Rights Fund, and the National Urban Indian Family Coalition have created a 1-page flyer featuring four steps to safely count native households.

The Census Bureau and NCAI also partnered in developing a how-to guide for virtual canvassing of Indian Country.

Census Bureau Transparency Urged to Help GOTC

While the COVID-19 crisis has led to historic delays in the 2020 Census, partners in the get-out-the-count operations are seeking improved Census Bureau transparency.

Denice Ross of Georgetown University wrote in The Hill that, “For example, local census partners are spreading the word that residents who need help filling out the form can call the Census Bureau. However, if the bureau were to share data on call volumes, then partners could tell residents when the best time to call is, rather than clogging up the phone lines and causing long wait times that discourage residents from completing the process. Complete Count Committees and Census Bureau Partners need that type of data in an open format so they can incorporate it into their own carefully planned outreach efforts.”

Ross proposed several data streams that would be useful for the Bureau to provide

  • “weekly analysis on response rates for specific hard-to-reach populations like children ages 0-5 and renters to hone partner outreach messaging,” in addition the existing self-response rate reporting;
  • “Completion rates for the non-response follow-up workload so trusted local messengers can encourage participation”;
  • “Group quarters workload completed by type of facility (nursing home, college dorm, correctional facility, etc.) and by state, so state and local officials can provide support for sectors falling behind in the count”;
  • “hourly wait times by language line” from the Census Bureau’s call centers, “and the most common questions from callers, such as ‘when will I get my paper form?’”; and
  • “recruiting goals by county,” if the Bureau needs more workers, including “demographic characteristics and language skills,” so that local partners can help identify potential job candidates.”

“Transparency is essential for a successful 2020 Census during the COVID crisis.” By Denice Ross. May 16, 2020. https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/498044-transparency-is-essential-for-a-successful-2020-census-during-the-covid

FY21 Funding “Top Doc”

TOP DOC: A coalition of organizations called The Census Project, which advocates for an “inclusive and accurate” census, sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators last week asking for nearly $1.7 billion in fiscal 2021 funding for the Census Bureau. That total is $9 million more than what the Trump administration requested, they noted. The groups also urged lawmakers to provide additional assistance in future pandemic relief legislation.

  • Politico Pro Budget & Appropriations newsletter. By Caitlin Emma. May 18, 2020.