Montana GOP Senator Opposes a Rushed Census

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), highlighting “the challenges faced by Montana in the current census,” told Senate leadership on August 4 about “the need for an extension to the data collection deadline” to October 31 in the next coronavirus relief bill.

“Given the rural nature of Montana, and the additional challenges brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, reverting the deadline back to September 30, 2020 will leave tens of thousands of Montanans uncounted and underrepresented at the federal level. Nearly half of the households in the state have yet to be counted. This problem is especially alarming on our tribal lands where the response rate is as low as 5% in some areas and many residents only recently received invitations to participate. It is critical that a full and accurate census is completed and every Montanan is counted.”

His letter echoes the support from a recent bipartisan Senate letter, the U.S. business community, and nearly 900 stakeholder groups.

Read Sen. Daines’ letter.

Bipartisan Senators’ Letter Urges Extension of Census Deadlines

Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) headlined an August 11 bipartisan letter to Senate and House leadership urging them to extend the statutory deadlines for 2020 Census apportionment and redistricting data as part of the next coronavirus relief bill, in order to give the Census Bureau “adequate time” to complete the decennial headcount.

“On April 13, 2020, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they would be adjusting 2020 Census operations. At the same time, they had requested that the Congress extend the statutory deadlines “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.” This would have given the Census Bureau adequate time to compile the data sets in light of the delayed enumeration window. However, the administration has reversed course and shortened the enumeration period from October 31 to September 30, 2020, citing these statutory constraints.”

Read the Senators’ letter.

U.S. Business Community Opposes Rushing the 2020 Census

The American business community banded together today in support of extending “the statutory reporting deadlines for the 2020 Census by four months.” Eighty-seven business groups and companies warned Congressional leaders that “a rushed census in the midst of the current public health crisis will harm every state, every business, and every industry in the country relying upon the resulting data.”

Organizations and companies as diverse as the Auto Care Association, Associated General Contractors of America, Consumer Technology Association, Household & Commercial Products Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Insights Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau, International Council of Shopping Centers, International Franchise Association, National Association of Broadcasters, National Association for Business Economics, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of REALTORS®, National Beer Wholesalers Association, National Retail Federation, Nielsen, Ready Nation, and U.S. Apple Association joined the August 11, 2020 letter.

“The business community worries that rushing to complete the census prematurely will drastically undermine the quality of the data that we rely upon so dearly,” the letter said. “Currently, there are low response areas in every region and state. This includes not just urban centers, but also outlying rural areas. Self-response rates in rural areas are particularly anemic, presenting the possibility of the biggest undercount of rural America in modern times. A rushed census could lead to a potentially drastic reduction in political representation, government funding, and, from the business community perspective, private sector investment in such communities.”

Unless the 2020 Census counting operations are “conducted efficiently, communities most in need of resources and sound decision-making to improve quality of life and standards of living will be inadequately covered for the next decade,” the businesses and organizations explained. “Accurate data from the 2020 Census is critical to informing decision-making and resource/investment allocation in both the private and public sectors. With every other survey in the U.S. built on the population totals from the decennial count, the severe trickle-down impact of an inaccurate 2020 Census would last for a whole decade. That includes impact on the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Economic Census, two other Census Bureau programs upon which the U.S. business community more directly depends. The population and demographic data from these surveys are vital to businesses across America to promote economic development, identify potential customers and create jobs.”

The business community recommended that “[a]ny previous or future 2020 Census decisions regarding timelines, deadlines and extensions must consider input from career professionals at the Census Bureau.”

In conclusion, the 87 signers from the U.S. business community urged approval of “legislation extending the 2020 Census data reporting deadlines in the next COVID relief package, so that the Census Bureau is not forced to rush remaining enumeration operations and critical data review, processing, and tabulation activities.”

Read the full letter in PDF or below (with all the signers):

On behalf of America’s business community, we urge you to approve legislation as soon as possible to extend the statutory reporting deadlines for the 2020 Census by four months, preferably as part of the next COVID relief package.

While we recognize the urgency of meeting the statutory deadline, a rushed census in the midst of the current public health crisis will harm every state, every business, and every industry in the country relying upon the resulting data.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the 2020 Census. Earlier this year, the pandemic compelled the U.S. Census Bureau to suspend field activities and postpone key operations, including the critical Non-Response Follow Up (NRFU) phase in which census takers visit more than 30 percent of households that have not responded on their own, to collect information in person. Only weeks ago, senior Census Bureau experts said unequivocally that they could not responsibly finish their work in time to complete the NRFU operation and compile, analyze, and disseminate apportionment data by the legally-required December 31, 2020 deadline. Accordingly, the Secretary of Commerce requested that Congress extend the reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting data, so that the Census Bureau could complete in-person visits and other special counting operations for the non-household population (including people experiencing homelessness; people living in transitory locations, such as RV parks and motels; and people living in group facilities such as nursing homes and college dorms) and deliver reliable apportionment and redistricting data to the Congress and states.

The business community worries that rushing to complete the census prematurely will drastically undermine the quality of the data that we rely upon so dearly. Currently, there are low response areas in every region and state. This includes not just urban centers, but also outlying rural areas. Self-response rates in rural areas are particularly anemic, presenting the possibility of the biggest undercount of rural America in modern times. A rushed census could lead to a potentially drastic reduction in political representation, government funding, and, from the business community perspective, private sector investment in such communities.

If the remaining counting operations are not conducted efficiently, communities most in need of resources and sound decision-making to improve quality of life and standards of living will be inadequately covered for the next decade. Accurate data from the 2020 Census is critical to informing decision-making and resource/investment allocation in both the private and public sectors. With every other survey in the U.S. built on the population totals from the decennial count, the severe trickle-down impact of an inaccurate 2020 Census would last for a whole decade. That includes impact on the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Economic Census, two other Census Bureau programs upon which the U.S. business community more directly depends. The population and demographic data from these surveys are vital to businesses across America to promote economic development, identify potential customers and create jobs.

Any previous or future 2020 Census decisions regarding timelines, deadlines and extensions must consider input from career professionals at the Census Bureau. Congress has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that the enumeration is conducted responsibly and delivers reliable data about our nation’s changing socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The stakes are high: an undercount of rural and remote communities, young children, low-income people, immigrants, American Indians and others; congressional representation; and the annual allocation of $1.5 trillion in federal funding to states and localities.[1]

The U.S. business community urges Congress to approve legislation extending the 2020 Census data reporting deadlines in the next COVID relief package, so that the Census Bureau is not forced to rush remaining enumeration operations and critical data review, processing, and tabulation activities.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. An unreliable 2020 Census will be catastrophic for businesses in all sectors and the American economy for many years to come.

Sincerely,

  • Advertising Research Foundation (ARF)
  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Advertising Federation (AAF)
  • American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA)
  • American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)
  • Asian Business Association
  • Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)
  • Association of National Advertisers (ANA)
  • Association of Public Data Users (APDU)
  • Auto Care Association
  • Coin Laundry Association
  • Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA)
  • Consumer Technology Association (CTA)
  • Council for Community and Economic Research
  • data.world
  • Data Coalition
  • ESOMAR
  • Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA)
  • Information Technology Industry Council (ITI)
  • Insights Association
  • Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)
  • International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)
  • International Franchise Association (IFA)
  • Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)
  • National Apartment Association (NAA)
  • National Association for Business Economics (NABE)
  • National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)
  • National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
  • National Association of REALTORS®
  • National Beer Wholesalers Association
  • National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC)
  • National Retail Federation (NRF)
  • Network Advertising Initiative (NAI)
  • Ready Nation
  • Small Business for America’s Future
  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • U.S. Apple Association

[Companies]

  • AECOM
  • Allen & Hoshall
  • Claritas
  • Fourth Economy
  • Gorman & Company
  • Grant Thornton Public Sector
  • LivHOME Inc.
  • Maxfield Research and Consulting LLC
  • Nielsen
  • SWBC Mortgage Corporation

[State/local chambers of commerce]

  • Allen Fairview Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Asian Chamber of Texas
  • Bay Area Council (CA)
  • California Chamber of Commerce
  • Cincinnati Compass (OH)
  • Collin County Business Alliance (TX)
  • Denver Metro Chamber (CO)
  • Einstein’s Alley (NJ)
  • Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce (AR)
  • Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Frisco Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Granbury Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Grapevine Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce (MA)
  • Greater Des Moines Partnership (IA)
  • Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce (MO)
  • Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida
  • Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA (OH)
  • Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Marshall County Chamber of Commerce (OK)
  • Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce (MN)
  • Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
  • Minnesota Hmong Chamber of Commerce
  • North Carolina Business Council
  • North Texas Commission
  • North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce
  • Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • Rowlett Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce (MN)
  • San Antonio Chamber of Commerce (TX)
  • Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (WA)
  • Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce (SC)
  • Texas Association of Manufacturers
  • Texas Business Leadership Council
  • West Virginia Chamber of Commerce

[1] “New Report Says $1.5 Trillion in Federal Funding to States and Localities Annually Depends Upon Good Census Count.” Nov. 18, 2019. https://censusproject.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/counting-for-dollars-press-release-11.18.2019.pdf

The Importance of 2020 Census to Rural Oklahoma

Oklahoma State Representative Brad Boles (R-51) recently wrote in the Duncan Banner encouraging rural Oklahomans to respond to the 2020 Census.

“For Oklahomans who are not counted, our state loses an estimated $1,675 per person per year. Over the next decade, that’s almost $17,000 lost money for every individual not counted in the census. Instead, that money will be appropriated to other states. Undercounting just 2% of the population would put Oklahoma at risk of losing about $1.8 billion in federal funding throughout the next decade. Those billions of dollars, which would go directly into our schools, roads, healthcare and public safety services, could instead be sent to another state.”

Oklahoma’s overall self-response rate is currently about 57.8 percent, below the national average of 63.2 percent, but most of Oklahoma’s rural counties are well under 40-50 percent.

Huge Coalition Calls on Congress to Block Plans to Rush Census Count

Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer received a direct appeal yesterday from an impressive array of national, state and local organizations who support a complete count of the nation in the 2020 Census to add a provision to the next COVID relief bill that would extend statutory deadlines and give the Census Bureau four more months to get a quality count of everyone in the country.

In a letter signed by nearly 900 organizations, census stakeholders said the COVID-19 pandemic had seriously hampered census operations and “…Currently, there are low response areas in every part of the country, in every state, in every city. If remaining counting operations are not done well, communities most in need of resources to improve quality of life and standards of living will get the short end of the stick for the next decade.”

The appeal came just days after the Census Bureau announced an Administration reversal from its April position in support of an extension, and a surprising speed-up of census operations that will end data collection a full month early, at the end of September. The letter was organized by the Census Project, the largest and most diverse census advocacy group in the nation, and signers included an incredible array of advocates, from leading business groups such as the Insights Association and Nielsen, senior and youth organizations like AARP and the YWCA, expert data professionals including the Population Association of America and the Association of Public Data Users, and influential non-profits such as the Children’s Defense Fund, League of Women Voters, and Independent Sector, to faith groups including the Union of Reform Judaism and the Tabernacle Baptist Church, as well as the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Association of Towns and Townships.

It stressed to the Senate an extension was “imperative” and “…Congress has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that the enumeration is conducted responsibly and delivers reliable data about our nation’s changing socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. Too much is at stake–the undercount of vulnerable populations such as young children, people in low-income communities (rural and urban), immigrants, American Indians and others; congressional representation; and the annual allocation of $1.5 trillion in federal funding to states and localities.”

Census Project co-director Howard Fienberg said, “The Senate should approve an extension in their COVID relief bill or risk severe undercounts in both urban cores and remote rural areas.”

According to Census Project co-director Mary Jo Hoeksema, “I think every Senator should take note of this incredible and unified call to give the Census professionals the time needed to get a quality count. Never before have we seen so many diverse organizations sign an appeal to Congress in so short a time.

Congressman Cole Pleads with Indian Country to “Be a Part of the Count”

The “success and accuracy of every census ultimately rests with participation,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-04), and despite the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, “your engagement is critical and requires very little effort.”

Writing in a July 27, 2020 op-ed in Indian Country Today, Cole explained how the 2020 Census works and how people can respond. He also discussed how their “input helps paint a more complete picture of the current and changing needs in our communities and across the state.”

Moreover, accurate census data determines the distribution of Congressional seats and “also helps ensure federal funding is properly allocated and disbursed to states to support public services like infrastructure, law enforcement, education, health care and numerous other federal programs,” the Congressman pointed out. “When households don’t participate in the census, it can mean less funding than needed for projects and the loss of congressional seats. However, it can also save hardworking taxpayer dollars as the changing needs of the U.S. population are addressed.”

Warning that failure to respond would result in someone knocking on a household’s door at a time when people are nervous about the pandemic, Rep. Cole pleaded with people not to “wait any longer to be a part of the count.”

Senator Asks for Supplemental Funds to Extend Census Bureau COVID-19 Pulse Surveys

Several Senate Democrats are urging Senate leaders to give the Census Bureau an extra $6 million – “$4 million for Demographic Surveys and $2 million for Economic Surveys” – to allow the continuation and expansion of the Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey and Household Pulse Survey (Pulse Surveys).

“Through these surveys, the Census Bureau collects data on the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including key health, social, and economic information.”

Read Schatz’s letter.

New GAO Report on 2020 Census COVID Risks

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at how the Census Bureau will need to counter the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic in completing the 2020 Census. “For example, following COVID-19, door-to-door interviewing may be less likely or effective, affecting both non-response follow-ups and independent surveys that assess the quality of the count.” Operations were delayed, suspended or extended in March, with the headcount only ramping back up in June and data collection extended until October 31.

GAO warned that the Census Bureau will need to consider: continued attention to self-response; carefully communicating pandemic plans to ensure continued operation; 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. GAO-20-551R: Published: Jun 9, 2020 https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-20-551R

Sen. Leahy Issue Brief on the Cost of Census Inaction

“Senate Republicans need to abandon their ‘wait-and-see’ approach and Congress must provide the resources to support the Census,” according to Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT). In an issue brief he recently circulated, the Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee hammered the importance of completing the 2020 Census count in the face of significant pandemic-driven delays.

Leahy’s brief warned that the “delays are estimated to cost more than $800 million in additional salary for Area Census Office staff, advertising to support self-response efforts, and extending contracts and office leases. This is on top of an estimated $700 million to increase enumeration staff, provide PPE, and support paid sick leave. While Congress provided a $2 billion reserve to mitigate unforeseen costs, the pandemic is likely to consume 75 percent these funds. Without additional funding the Census has only a limited reserve in its final six months, which includes major field operations that begin in August. If there are future COVID-19 impacts, natural disasters, or cybersecurity issues, the Census could be cash strapped, which could endanger the accuracy of the Census and have consequences on funding for communities and Congressional apportionment over the next decade.”

“The Mounting Cost of Inaction: The Census” – https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Census.pdf

House Appropriations Committee Approves Fiscal Year 2021 Census Funding Bill

On Tuesday, July 14, the House Appropriations Committee, by a vote of 30-22, passed its version of the Fiscal Year 2021 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which, among other things, funds the U.S. Census Bureau. The bill provides a total of $1,681,112,000 for the Bureau of the Census, which is $9,135,000 above the Administration’s request. The amount, which reflects The Census Project’s recommendation, will support the ramp down of the 2020 Census, funding portions of its operations into the first quarter of FY 2021, and restore the Administration’s proposed funding cut to the Survey of Income and Program Participation. 

The bill includes language precluding the Bureau from using funds to compile the Administration’s proposed citizen voting age population file. Another provision in the bill caps the number of political and presidential appointees in the Census Bureau to no more than five—a direct response to recent political appointments at the agency. In a report accompanying the bill, the Bureau is asked to conduct “a feasibility study on including a race category for individuals who identify as Middle East or North African.” The agency is also told that the Committee expects questions on sexual orientation and gender identity to be “examined for possible inclusion” in the 2030 Census. Other notable provisions direct the Bureau to “provide updates on a semi-annual basis on language assistance programs for the American Community Survey (ACS),” and to “prioritize cyber protections and high standards of data differential privacy, while also maintaining the accuracy of the data” and to regularly update the Committee on these efforts. With respect to funding for the 2020 Census, the Committee rejects the Administration’s proposal to transfer $208 million in 2020 Decennial funds to support other FY 2021 activities, including the reconfiguration of its headquarters to accommodate the relocation of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bill will be merged with other appropriations bills as part of a minibus funding measure that the House of Representatives is expected to consider before it adjourns in early August.