September 2020 Census Project Update


Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations
On October 1, President Trump signed into law (P.L. 116-159) a continuing resolution (CR) (H.R. 8337), which extends fiscal year (FY) 2020 government funding levels through December 11. The U.S. Senate passed the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act by a vote of 84-10 on September 30, following the bill’s passage in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 22 by a vote of 359-57 .

The bill provides the Census Bureau with $1.514 billion to support 2020 Census operations.The amount represents the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 request for the Periodic Census and Programs account plus $122 million. The Administration’s request had assumed $122 million in carryover spending from FY 2020 to FY 2021. By providing the additional $122 million in the CR, the Census Bureau is guaranteed access to this funding rather than assuming the carryover balances will be available to support additional 2020 Census costs through December 11. The CR also allows the Census Bureau to spend their funding at a faster rate, granting the agency additional flexibility if it is needed.

Census stakeholders had been urging negotiators to include language in the CR to extend the 2020 Census statutory reporting deadlines, such as from the bipartisan Census Deadline Extension Act (S. 4571, H.R. 8250). However, the final version of the CR did not include this language.

COVID Relief

On Thursday, October 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a revised version of the HEROES Act by a vote of 214-207. The bill includes language that would extend the census reporting deadlines for the 2020 Census, sustain the NonResponse FollowUp operations through October 31, and provide the Bureau with additional funding. Specifically, the new legislation tacks on another $10 million of emergency funding, for the Census Bureau’s Working Capital Fund in the Current Surveys and Programs account and an additional $400 million to cover 2020 Census costs associated COVID-19 related delays and disruptions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has referred to the revised HEROES Act as a $2.2 trillion compromise to move toward a final coronavirus relief bill with the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said it contains “poison pills” and that the Senate will not consider it. At press time, House Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, on behalf of the White House, were negotiating the parameters of another COVID relief package, which will, most likely, be considered after Congress reconvenes following the November 3 general election.  

Policy Update

Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Introduced to Extend 2020 Census Reporting Deadlines
On September 15, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced a bipartisan bill, S.4571, that would extend two key statutory deadlines for the 2020 Census by four months and require the Census Bureau to continue field operations through October 31, 2020. The bill, the 2020 Census Deadline Extension Act, was endorsed by more than 200 national and state organizations. More information about the bill, including a link to its text, is available online in a press release issued by Senator Schatz. A bipartisan companion measure, H.R. 8250, was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Young (R-Alaska) and Congressman Gallego (D-Arizona). Notably, more Republicans have joined since introduction, with Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and David Perdue (R-GA) cosponsoring S. 4571 and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) cosponsoring H.R. 8250.

Members of Congress Contact Census Bureau to Urge Extension of 2020 Census
On September 30, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) sent a letter to Census Bureau Director Dillingham urging the agency to extend both self-response and field data collection operations to October 31. Their letter echoes messages other members of Congress have recently communicated to the Census Bureau, which are summarized in recent Census Project blogs. ( and

Department of Commerce Inspector General Issues Reports on Risks to 2020 Census
On September 18, the Department of Commerce Inspector General (IG) issued a report, “The Acceleration of the Census Schedule Increases the Risks to a Complete and Accurate 2020 Census.” The report concluded that the data collection and processing components of the 2020 Census are at risk of being shortchanged by an accelerated timetable. In addition, on September 17, the IG issued a memorandum, “Delays to Resolving Alerts Limit the Bureau’s Ability to Maintain or Improve the Quality of 2020 Census Data Final Memorandum,” which examined the Census bureau’s “quality control processes” designed “to ensure that enumerators follow procedures when conducting interviews with households.” It warned that “failure to adhere to quality control processes increases the risk of data inaccuracy,” and “that ACO supervisors are not resolving alerts within the 3-day timeframe established to minimize the number of enumerator actions that do not follow procedures.” A recent Census Project blog provides additional detail about both documents.

Legal Action to Extend 2020 Census Operations and Reporting Deadlines
Throughout the month of September, several court rulings were issued affecting the conduct of the 2020 Census. On September 24, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California issued a Preliminary Injunction prohibiting the Trump administration from further implementing the “rushed census plan” that had forced the Census Bureau to finish data collection by September 30 and to recommit to processing, tabulating, and reporting state population totals used for congressional apportionment by the current statutory deadline of December 31, 2020. A recent Census Project blog reported on this ruling. On October 1, Judge Koh issued a clarification of stay and preliminary injunction, in response to an announcement which the Commerce Secretary made on September 28, that the Census Bureau would be concluding field operations on October 5—a direct violation of Judge Koh’s initial order. At press time, there was a still a possibility that the Department of Commerce would appeal Judge Koh’s latest order.

In a related, but separate development, on September 10, a three-judge panel blocked implementation of President Trump’s July 31 memorandum excluding undocumented immigrants from the apportionment count. The panel ordered the Commerce Secretary to report a total count of all people living in the United States to the president, and for the president, in turn, to submit those numbers to Congress. On September 30, in response to an appeal from the Trump administration, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to entertain briefs to determine if the court should consider the case.

GAO Warns About Compressed Timeline
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Census Bureau “to change how it will operate” and a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warns that, as the Bureau implements those changes and “anticipates completing them within the new compressed timeframes,” that a number of areas require close watch.

ASA Releases Analyses Highlighting 2020 Census Enumeration
In September, the American Statistical Association, a member of The Census Project, released several analyses regarding the nation’s response to the 2020 Census and the consequences of curtailed nonresponse follow-up and data processing phases of the 2020 Census:

Census Bureau News

Throughout the month of September, the Census Bureau issued several press releases updating the percentage of U.S. households that had responded to the 2020 Census. The most recent announcement, posted on September 29, stated that over 98 percent of U.S. households had been counted.

On September 28, the Secretary of Commerce announced October 5 as the target date for concluding the 2020 Census field operations and response phase.

On September 25, the Census Bureau announced it would comply with the court’s latest ruling and continue the Non-Response Follow Up operations.

On September 16, the Census Bureau announced that on September 22 it would launch operations to count people experiencing homelessness.

On September 9, the Census Bureau announced it had begun counting people living in transitory locations, such as RV parks, campgrounds, and temporary housing.

On September 3, the Census Bureau announced it had sent an additional paper questionnaire to 16.2 million U.S. households.

On September 3, the Census Bureau announced it would be releasing daily 2020 Census Nonresponse Followup workload completion rates by area census offices.

Census Bureau Data Releases

On September 24, the Census Bureau announced the release of new data from the second phase of the experimental Small Business Pulse Survey. Other data releases were announced on September 17 and 10.

On September 23, the Census Bureau announced the release of new data from the second phase of the experimental Household Pulse Survey. Another new data release occurred on September 9.

Other significant data releases in September 2020 included:

News You Can Use

Below are several articles posted on The Census Project home page in September. For a complete listing, go to:

Census Bureau Gets 4th Trump Appointee In 3 Months As Count Nears End
September 30, 2020

US appeals court blocks Trump from shutting down the census count early
Los Angeles Times
September 30, 2020

Wilbur Ross’s Census Shutdown Is Against the Rule of Law
September 29, 2020

Census Bureau announces new ‘target date’ of Oct. 5 to finish 2020 Census count
The Washington Post
September 28, 2020

Census Bureau says operations will conclude by October 5
September 28, 2020

Ruling Against Shortening Count Adds to Questions Raised About Census
The New York Times
September 25, 2020

Groups Question Whether There’s Enough Money For Extended Census Outreach In Illinois
September 25, 2020

With 95% homes hit, feds say no need for census extension
Associated Press
September 23, 2020

Bay Area Advocates Fear Census Homeless Count Will Come Up Short
September 23, 2020

IG: Census Bureau did not order to shorten 2020 census
September 22, 2020

Wildfires and hurricanes disrupt final weeks of 2020 census
Associated Press
September 20, 2020

Census Could Look ‘Manipulated’ If Cut Short By Trump Officials, Bureau Warned
September 20, 2020

Census Bureau to complete final stretch of 2020 count despite ‘challenging’ conditions
Federal News Network
September 18, 2020

Southern states lagging in census amid pandemic, hurricanes
Roll Call
September 17, 2020

Trump Census Plan Might Leave Out Some Legal Residents
September 16, 2020

The census is on the verge of disaster
The Washington Post
September 13, 2020

With deadline looming, Chicago is badly lagging in census response, especially in communities of color
Chicago Tribune
September 13, 2020

College Towns Worry Students Will Not Be Counted in US Census
September 13, 2020

Court halts Trump plan to exclude undocumented migrants from census
Cronkite News
September 11, 2020

Report: Montana could lose $9.7 million per year with 1% undercount in census
Great Falls Tribune
September 11, 2020

Judges Blocked The Trump Administration From Excluding Undocumented Immigrants From The Census Count
BuzzFeed News
September 10, 2020

‘A Brush with Catastrophe’: Inside the 2020 Census Meltdown
September 10, 2020

Federal Judge Blocks, for Now, Further Winding Down of the 2020 Census
The New York Times
September 6, 2020

Census officials wary of ‘serious’ risks to data quality with compressed timeline
Federal News Network
September 3, 2020

We’ll deliver a complete and accurate census count
USA Today
September 3, 2020

2020 Census Could Have ‘Serious Errors,’ Document Finds, Which Could Have Lasting Impacts
September 2, 2020

US 2020 Census: Concerns minority groups will be undercounted
Al Jazeera
September 2, 2020