A group of Senators, led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D), have written to Senate leadership requesting “additional funding for the Census Bureau” to specifically “address the operational changes to the 2020 Census in response to the current public health crisis.”
The May 8, 2020 letter acknowledged the need to work on the delays in statutory deadlines sought by the Administration, but said that “it must be paired with additional funding for the Census Bureau to ensure that every person is counted. The extension is expected to cost an estimated $1.5 billion.”
The additional funding the Senators recommended “should be used specifically on:
Personal protective equipment for census field workers, call center staff, and other employees;
Additional mailings to households that have not self-responded;
Targeted outreach to hard-to-count communities;
Targeted outreach to the location of the 2018 End-to-End Census Test;
Special operations to hand-deliver census packets in rural and remote communities, on American Indian reservations, in areas recovering from natural disasters, in Alaska, and in Puerto Rico;
Enumerating people experiencing homelessness;
Increased in-language outreach and assistance to supplement 2020 Census partners in non-English speaking communities;
Changes in Census Bureau’s communications plan, including advertisement and social media;
An increase in the number of call center staff to address higher volumes of self-responses by phone; and
Facilitating internet access in low self-response neighborhoods.”
“A delay in receiving census data will impact redistricting in most states,” according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, and may “require changes to deadlines and processes set by state law.”
With delays to census field operations, the Administration has proposed to significantly extend the statutory deadlines for data reporting. The report goes over all the adjustments states will need to make to still be able to complete their required redistricting. “Depending on how long this process takes,” courts may “need to intervene and draw temporary maps” and “adjust candidate filing periods and/or delay primary elections.”
The apportionment of seats in Congress is the Constitutional rationale for the decennial census of the “whole number of persons in each State.” 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.
The Small Business Pulse Survey is a five minute survey covering questions such as “location closings, changes in employment, disruptions in the supply chain, the use of federal assistance programs, and expectations concerning future operations.” The Bureau intends to post data weekly beginning in mid-May and “to include estimates for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, as well as for the 50 most populated Metropolitan Statistical Areas.” According to a report from the American Economic Association, “There are 940,588 target businesses with a known email address. The SBPS will cover this universe over nine weeks — approximately 105,000 firms will be contacted each week, beginning the week of April 26th. The estimated response rate is 15-20%.”
The Household Pulse Survey, a collaboration between the Bureau and six other agencies, “will ask individuals about their experiences in terms of employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption” as a longitudinal study. It should “produce statistics at a state level and for the 15 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).” Results will be posted on a weekly basis.
According to the plan, “The PES is an interrelated set of operational activities intended to allow the Census Bureau to evaluate coverage of the 2020 Census and provide data to improve future censuses. The Census Bureau conducts the PES to measure the coverage of housing units and people residing in housing units in the 2020 Census.”
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.”
The resolution recognizes that “2020 census data will be used to evaluate government programs and policies to ensure they fairly and equitably serve the needs of all groups of people and to monitor compliance with antidiscrimination laws, regulations, and policies” and “States will also use 2020 census data to meet legislative redistricting and apportionment requirements.” Tribal nations themselves will use 2020 Census data to make “governmental decisions on allocating resources, the needs of their communities, economic development opportunities, and areas of growth for future decision making.”
Horn was clearly motivated by the fact that “American Indians and Alaska Natives have historically been at a higher risk for undercounting in the census than other populations… the Census Bureau estimates that American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations or in Native villages were undercounted by approximately 4.9 percent” in the 2010 Census.
The Census Project is sharing this statement from four former Directors of the U.S. Census Bureau on the decision to extend the start of field operations for the 2020 Census:
The Census Bureau has announced that it is adjusting 2020 Census operations to effectively deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. The Census Bureau will reactivate field offices on June 1, 2020, completing field data collection operations and self-response by October 31, 2020. Additional operations will then complete the census at a level of accuracy and coverage consistent with the demanding standards that have been met 23 times in American history. The genius of the census has always been finding a Plan B when conditions rule out Plan A. For 2020, Plan B includes a schedule adjustment. The Census Bureau has requested statutory relief from the Congress for an additional 120 days.
We have discussed these operational and schedule adjustments with the senior career leadership at the Census Bureau. Based on (1) our extensive experience in planning, executing and often adjusting operations of previous decennial censuses; and (2) our firm conclusion that the extension of the field operations reflect careful analysis by the technical, scientific and operational staff at the Census Bureau, we support the decision and urge Congress to act in concert with it.
The COVID-19 outbreak presents many challenges to our country, one of which is unique to the census already in process when the pandemic hit the country. The Bureau staff has put in long hours to: (1) protect the health and safety of the American public and their employees; (2) adhere to guidance from federal, state, and local authorities; and (3) finish a complete and accurate count of all communities in America. The best way to support the Census Bureau and our democracy in these difficult times is to be certain you have responded to the 2020 Census.
If you have not responded, you will soon receive a paper questionnaire in the mail that you can complete, or best, go to www.my2020census.gov and respond online.
As Congress considers the next legislative COVID-19 relief package, the leaders of The Census Project asked Dr. Steven Dillingham, Director of the Census Bureau, if the Census Bureau “needs additional funding in FY 2020 or enactment of emergency authorities to complete your mission to conduct a fair and accurate 2020 Census in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.”
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 get taken care of ASAP.
“If you are considering a supplemental funding request for the national headcount, we strongly urge you to convey that need to Congressional appropriators immediately.”
Recognizing that the Census Bureau “has emergency and disaster-related contingency plans for the decennial operation,” the Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently wrote to Dr. Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau, that the COVID-19 crisis “requires a recalibration of the Bureau’s major operations including Update Leave, Update Enumerate, Mobile Questionnaire Assistance, Group Quarters Enumeration, and Non-Response Follow Up.” The caucus further commended the Census Bureau “for prioritizing the health and safety above all in its most recent decision to extend the suspension of in-field operations until at least April 15, 2020.”
However, the letter urged the Census Bureau to share updates with Members of Congress on a whole range of specific concerns relating to employee safety, hiring, training, operations in hard-to-count communities, community partners, the communications plan, the timeline for the census, and census funding.
On funding, the caucus letter specifically asked: “To date, has the Bureau started using its contingency funds? If so, where are these contingency funds being allocated? What portion, if any, has gone directly to equipment to ensure the health and safety of Census Bureau employees? As we continue to amplify the ability to self-respond, can or has the Bureau used contingency funding to set up a system that would allow operators to take calls over the internet from any remote locations in light of health concerns?”
With the Census Bureau postponing field operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, House Oversight Committee Democrat leaders reached out to Census Director Dillingham on Census Day to request responses to their previous inquiries and a request for a video briefing with members of the committee.
“This year’s Census comes at a perilous time for our nation, with a public health crisis upending daily life and creating unforeseen challenges to completing an accurate count of every person in the United States.”
Read the letter from Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chair Jamie Raskin.