The U.S. Census Bureau will end all field data collection efforts for the 2020 census on September 30, a month earlier than previously announced, according to a statement by bureau director Steven Dillingham on Monday. At that time, the bureau will cease all data collection efforts, including knocking on doors and collecting responses online, by phone, and by mail.
These latest measures are to help “accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of December 31, 2020, as required by law and directed by the Secretary of Commerce,” the statement read.
However, the last-minute changes threaten the accuracy of population numbers used to determine how political representation and federal funding are allocated for the next decade.
According to NPR, 4 out of 20 households have not been counted and having already been impacted by COVID-19, the bureau now has less than two months to reach hard to count communities such as people of color, immigrants, rural residents, and other hard to reach groups who are less likely to fill out a census form.
Counting for the 2020 census was originally scheduled to end in July, but once the pandemic hit, the bureau announced it needed to extend the deadline, pushing it back to October 31. Then last week, during a hearing before the House Oversight Committee, Dillingham told Congress members that “the Census Bureau and others really wanted us to proceed as rapidly as possible,” a foreshadowing to moving up the deadline.
Still, Democrats worry that pressure from the White House to stop counting sooner is so Republicans will benefit when House seats are reapportioned, and voting districts are redrawn.
With lawmakers negotiating the latest coronavirus relief package, it would be possible to include a provision that would extend the deadline; however, only Democrats have introduced legislation that would extend deadlines, with no proposals introduced by Republicans.