June 2020 Census Project Update

The COVID-19 crisis continued to disrupt both the regular appropriations process and the 2020 Census in June, as the national self-response rate neared 62 percent and the Census Bureau slowly restarted field operations.


The House Appropriations subcommittees plan to mark up their fiscal year (FY) 2021 bills in early July, but given ongoing debates regarding police reform, the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill may be even harder than normal to shepherd to finality between the House and Senate. Further plans for when the legislation might be considered are unclear and time is running out: Congress will only have a couple of weeks in session in July before leaving for the August recess.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to point to the end of July for consideration of another round of COVID-19-focused relief, which census stakeholders hope will include supplemental funding for the Census Bureau to replenish the 2020 Census’ contingency fund and help the Bureau continue to respond to both the pandemic and any other upcoming natural disasters. In addition, census stakeholders hope the Senate package will include language authorizing the Census Bureau to extend the 2020 Census operational deadlines by 120 days.

The Census Project organized a sign-on letter from 148 census stakeholder groups in June urging “the Senate to allocate at least $400 million to help ensure a successful 2020 Census amidst significant challenges, which the U.S. House of Representatives included in its latest COVID relief bill (H.R. 6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act).” (See the full release and letter.)

That funding would be in addition to census stakeholders’ FY 2021 request for at least $1.681 billion for the Census Bureau, with $1.392 billion for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account and $288.4 million for the Current Surveys and Programs account.

Legislative updates

Rep. James Comer (R-KY-01) was chosen by the House GOP Steering Committee as Ranking Member on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the key authorizing committee for the Census Bureau in the U.S. House. Comer replaced Mark Meadows, who left the committee ranking member position when he became President Trump’s chief of staff, and beat out competing Congressmen Jody Hice (R-GA-10) and Mark Green (R-TN-07). He was most recently Ranking Member on the committee’s Environment Subcommittee. The former state legislator has primarily focused on agriculture, veterans and budget issues in his three terms in Congress. The full Republican Conference still needs to ratify the choice.

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Fair and Accurate Census Act (S. 4048) on June 23. The Act is similar to H.R. 7034, which was covered in the May 2020 Update from The Census Project, but is not identical. Both bills would implement the Trump Administration’s request to modify the statutorily-required 2020 Census deadlines by 120 days due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, they would require the Census Bureau to provide Congress with monthly operational and technological status reports and allow colleges and universities to provide necessary data to the Census Bureau. Unlike the House version, however, S. 4048 also includes a $400 million supplemental appropriation for the 2020 Census, the same amount provided in the House’s HEROES Act in May.

New Political Positions at the Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau announced two new political appointments to its leadership in late June: Nathaniel Cogley as Deputy Director of Policy and Adam Krozeniewski as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director for Policy. The New York Times reported that the two “have been working since April as advisers to a deputy of Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr., who oversees the Census Bureau.” An anonymous senior census official told the Times that Krozeniewski and Cogley “have repeatedly questioned the need for census operations that focus on accurately counting the nation’s hardest-to-reach residents.”

According to NPR, “It is also not clear what qualifies Cogley to help run the Census Bureau, where day-to-day operations have been overseen by Deputy Director Ron Jarmin, an economist and career civil servant who has spent more than a quarter of century at the bureau.” The Bureau informed NPR “that Cogley’s new role ‘does not affect the portfolio’ of Jarmin, who also serves as the agency’s chief operating officer.”

Democrats decried the addition of “starkly partisan allies” as an “unprecedented” politicization in the middle of the 2020 Census. The American Statistical Association warned that the addition “undermines the work of the Census Bureau and federal statistical agencies because of the lack of transparency and justification, as well as the perception—if not reality—of improper political influence.” The American Economic Association called for clarity “about the role of these appointments… as well as assurances that the core principles of credibility and independence of the U.S. Census Bureau in its operations will be maintained in light of these appointments.” The Population Association of America and Association of Population Centers warned that “it is not clear either of the appointees have the appropriate credentials or experience for filling these high-level positions and their stated purpose” and asked the Census Director “to provide a rationale for the creation of these positions.”

Other Census Developments

  • During a televised press conference in Atlanta on May 29, the rapper Killer Mike urged rioters and looters to go home instead and fill out their census forms.
  • 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.”
  • A demographer questioned the quantity and quality of planned data products from the 2020 Census, but suggested that there were still ways in which the Census Bureau could “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.”
  • 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.”
  • Representatives of “town/gown” communities wrote to Congressional leaders for assistance with the 2020 count in their towns, particularly since their student populaces dispersed just before census day.
  • 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.”

Census Bureau updates

  • The U.S. Census Bureau, in coordination with federal, state and local health officials, began a phased restart of some 2020 Census field operations in additional area census offices (ACOs) across the nation the week of June 8.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau is sending postcards between June 24 and July 3 to an estimated 1.3 million post office boxes in communities where P.O. boxes are the only mailing address available. The postcards alert households that a census taker may drop off census invitations soon or will visit later to interview them. The postcards also provide information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online or by phone.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it will send an additional reminder postcard to households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. The postcard is scheduled to arrive between July 22 and July 28, a few weeks before census takers are set to begin visiting most households that haven’t responded.
  • Census workers have completed 96% of the 2020 Census “Update Leave” operation– where 2020 Census invitations and paper questionnaires are delivered to households in certain — often rural — areas across the country. In these areas, most households generally do not receive mail at their homes, so census workers drop off census materials in person. When the operation is complete, nearly every household nationwide will have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census either in the mail or from a census worker.
  • With about 4 in 10 households having yet to respond to the 2020 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau today announced it is on track to conduct multiple follow-up activities aimed at ensuring a complete and accurate count. Census Bureau staff will conduct coverage improvement, nonresponse follow up, nonresponse follow up re-interview, and the post-enumeration survey over the next several months.
  • The Bureau announced a list of updates to 2020 operations.
  • Census workers are in the final stages of delivering 2020 Census invitations and paper questionnaires in Puerto Rico.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau is reaching out to colleges and universities with significant off-campus student  populations to help ensure they are counted in the right place in the 2020 Census.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau has announced the new schedule for counting people experiencing homelessness in the 2020 Census. The operation was originally scheduled for March 30, March 31 and April 1, but health and safety concerns with COVID-19 forced us to delay these activities.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau announced the winners of the first-ever 2020 Census “Get Out the Count” Video Challenge during a live virtual event.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau released a series of technical notes on Select Topics in International Censuses. Each note highlights a new subject, method or operation relevant to census planners in middle- to low-income countries.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau hosted a webinar in collaboration with five other federal agencies to explain and answer questions about the experimental Household Pulse Survey.

Census Bureau data releases

  • The Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll statistics provide a comprehensive look at the employment of the nation’s state and local governments. The survey provides state and local government data on full- and part-time employment, full-time equivalent employment, and payroll statistics by governmental function.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau today released 2019 Population Estimates showing the nation’s 65-and-older population has grown rapidly since 2010, driven by the aging of Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau released the total number of 2020 Census paid temporary workers that earned any pay between: June 14 – June 20, 2020; June 7 – June 13, 2020; May 31 – June 6, 2020; May 24 – May 30, 2020; and May 17 – May 23, 2020.
  • The Bureau released the 2018 County Business Patterns (CBP), an annual series of statistics providing subnational economic data by industry.
  • The Census Bureau released new data from the experimental Household Pulse Survey.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau released the Community Resilience Estimates to measure the ability of a population to absorb, endure and recover from the impacts of disasters, including weather-related and disease-related hazard events such as COVID-19. The new experimental data product will be available through a tool which shows risk level by state, county and tract.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau released the 2019 Characteristics of New Housing Report, which provides annual statistics on the characteristics of new privately owned residential structures by census region.
  • A new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that while the overall population of veterans is declining, the number of female veterans is on the rise and Post 9-11 veterans have the highest rate of service-connected disability compared to any other group of veterans.

News You Can Use

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

How completing the census will impact Wyoming’s growing Latinx population
Rapid Growth Media
June 26, 2020

US Senate Asked for $400M Census Funds
June 26, 2020

New Mexico tribes play catch up in census count
New Mexico In Depth
June 26, 2020

Vermonters’ Census response rate one of the lowest in the country
Burlington Free Press
June 24, 2020

COVID-19 Adds a New Snag to the 2020 Census Count of Native Americans
June 23, 2020

House Democrats file bill nixing citizenship data-gathering
Associated Press
June 22, 2020

Census Bureau still behind in counting rural areas
Roll Call
June 19, 2020

Pandemic, privacy rules add to worries over 2020 census accuracy
June 17, 2020

Census Established a Governance Group on Data Quality Amid COVID-19 Worries
June 15, 2020

It’s Important for Military Families to Fill Out Census Forms
The Lemoore Navy News
June 12, 2020

Census Has New Method for Privacy; Researchers Want Proof
Roll Call
June 11, 2020

Researchers push for public test of census privacy tools
Roll Call
June 10, 2020

Accurate census counts vital for health care industry
Monroe Journal
June 8, 2020

Low Census count will hurt Alabama
The Eufaula Tribune
June 8, 2020

Census temporarily closes some field offices due to unrest
Associated Press
June 2, 2020