public-policy newsletter

2020 Census Update

August 10, 2020

By Zachary Tashman

The U.S. Census Bureau announced in April that it was extending the deadline to complete the 2020 count to October 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With Census field staff preparing to knock on doors starting this week, the Trump Administration has abruptly changed course and ordered the deadline to be moved up by one month to September 30. This decision risks not only misallocating Congressional representation but chronically underfunding countless communities across the country. With only 63 percent of households completing the self-response form, Census enumerators need the full amount of time and resources allotted to them previously in order to complete an accurate in-person count.

What is at Stake?

The results of the Decennial Census will have a massive impact on human service organizations and the communities we support. In 2017 alone, $1.5 trillion in federal funds was distributed based on Census data collected in 2010. These dollars go towards public education, healthcare, job training, and other programs that build a foundation of well-being for families. When families and children are not counted, their communities miss out on a host of necessary federal aid, not just for one year but for a whole decade. This issue also strikes at the heart of racial equity because communities of color are disproportionately more likely to be undercounted. The National Assembly has also written previously about the challenges the Census faces in accurately counting young children, costing communities billions each year in funding for childcare, public education and nutrition assistance.

Take Action

COVID-19 has increased the difficulty of achieving an accurate count as Census field workers struggle to adopt necessary safety requirements. The National Human Services Assembly gives these public servants our full support and urges Congress to include language extending the Census period deadline in the COVID relief package currently being debated. We encourage our members and the public to reach out to members of Congress to help build public pressure for this proposal. This sample letter, drafted by the Census Project, is a great template to use when contacting Senators and Representatives. For individuals who would like to become more involved in the 2020 Census, we recommend contacting your local Complete Count Committee.