August 12, 2020

Gillibrand Joins Bipartisan Call To Extend Census Deadlines, Ensure Full And Accurate Count In Wake Of COVID-19 Pandemic

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined a bipartisan group of 50 senators urging congressional leadership to extend deadlines to deliver data for the 2020 Census in the next coronavirus relief package. Due to the pandemic, additional time is needed to ensure an accurate and complete count as field operations have been delayed and significantly reduced in order to protect the safety of respondents and Census employees. However, the Trump administration recently announced its decision to end Census field data collection by September 30  one month earlier than previously planned — which would undermine a successful Census and especially harm immigrant, minority, rural and low-income communities. Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues are pushing Congress to provide the Census Bureau with adequate time to deliver apportionment data and redistricting files by including a deadline extension in the next relief package. 

“The recent reversal of the deadline extension for the Census is yet another cynical instance of President Trump seeking to discriminate against immigrants, minorities and low-income communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “With less than two months left for data to be collected, it is all but guaranteed that the hardest-to-reach households and undercounted populations — including minorities, undocumented immigrants, rural residents and low-income households —  will not have their voices heard. It’s critical that every person is counted, so that these communities can receive the services and resources they need, especially as we seek to combat and recover from the pandemic. I’m proud to join this bipartisan call for Congress to do everything possible to ensure an accurate count.”

The U.S. Census Bureau was already struggling to administer the 2020 Census amidst a pandemic and officials previously extended the deadline for conducting the count to October 31. The once a decade count, mandated by the Constitution, helps set federal funding levels that affect everything from schools, roads, and hospitals to representation in Congress. The Trump administration’s new September 30 deadline left less than two months for Census door knockers to go door-to-door to collect responses from 37% of the country, and nearly 41% of New Yorkers, who didn’t self-respond. The change will devastate the accuracy of the 2020 Census and disproportionately impact hard-to-count communities. In addition to calling on congressional leadership to extend the deadline, Senator Gillibrand also sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging the Trump Administration to reverse the effort to end the count a month early. 

Full text of the letter can be found here and below. 

###

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy:

As you work on the next legislative package to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we strongly urge you to extend the statutory deadlines for the delivery of apportionment data and redistricting files following the 2020 Census. 

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. 

Career Census Bureau staff have indicated that they cannot meet the existing statutory deadlines. In May 2020, the census official leading field operations, Tim Olson, stated, “We have passed the point where we could even meet the current legislative requirement of December 31. We can’t do that anymore.” And in July, the associate director of the census, Albert Fontenot, said, “We are past the window of being able to get those counts” by year’s end.

Extending the deadlines for the delivery of these files in the next COVID-19 relief package will ensure that the Census Bureau has adequate time to complete a full, fair, and accurate 2020 Census. It will also ensure that both the Congress and the states receive accurate data for apportionment and redistricting. We thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,