News

Civil Rights Advocates Respond to Census Operational Changes in the Wake of COVID-19

March 18, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tamika Turner,  The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, turner@civilrights.org, 202.466.2061
Amanda Bosquez, NALEO Educational Fund, abosquez@naleo.org, 361.548.6989
Michelle Boykins, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Mboykins@advancingjustice-aajc.org,  202-.296.2300 x 144

WASHINGTON – The co-chairs of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Census Task Force — Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO Educational Fund; John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC; and Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to suspend 2020 Census field operations until April 1, 2020:

Policy Statement from The Leadership Conference Census Task Force Co-Chairs: 

“We understand that the success of the 2020 Census is in peril given the current public health crisis and that the Census Bureau is making operational changes in response, including the suspension of field operations until April 1.  At the same time, state and congressional leaders, along with some organizations, have begun calling for the census response period to be ‘extended’ or ‘delayed,’ due to concerns about the potential impact of the health emergency on the count.

“There are numerous and difficult consequences to delaying census operations, and significant implications for data quality and the accuracy of the results. Moreover, because households can self-respond until July 31, it is too soon to know whether such action will be necessary. Accordingly, we have not yet taken the position on whether the Census Bureau should ‘extend’ the nonresponse follow-up (NRFU) and self-response period. We believe all stakeholders must fully consider the implications for data quality and census accuracy of extending operations, before urging such action. And we worry about the impact on self-response these early calls for an extension might have. We believe these issues must be fully discussed, understood and considered, by Congress in consultation with the Bureau, stakeholders, and experts.

“We support shifts in timing of certain operations.  The Census Bureau is adjusting strategies in real time, and we are working diligently to help inform these decisions. However, there is a difference between these types of shifts and proposals to ‘delay’ or ‘extend’ the census.  We urge the Census Bureau to be transparent with stakeholders, partners and Congress about where it is facing operational challenges, the changes it is making to its planned operations, and where it needs additional support (such as appropriations).  This will allow stakeholders and partners to respond appropriately and effectively to promote participation.

“The Census Bureau already has flexibility on extending the enumeration timeframe, which it had planned to conclude on July 31 under normal circumstances.  The self-response period (which is still in effect during NRFU) will provide the Census Bureau and stakeholders with information on how much additional time beyond July 31 may be needed.  However, the farther away from Census Day, April 1 (the reference date that is set in law), data are collected, the greater the impact on data quality and consistency, so these decisions must be made with consideration for the consequences.

“We encourage Congress to consult with the Bureau to see what resources it might need to expand the NRFU operation as soon as the Bureau can safely resume field operations. We are also urging Congress to closely monitor the progress of the census to determine if the Census Bureau will be able to meet the statutory deadlines of December 31, 2020 for the reporting of the final apportionment count, and April 1, 2021 for the transmission of the redistricting files to the states.  Congress may well need to consider adjustments to these deadlines once it has sufficient information on the status of the 2020 Census operations. This issue has deep and broad implications, primarily political and conceivably partisan. It must be approached carefully and knowledgeably for those reasons.

“The Census Bureau needs our support and cooperation at this time more than ever, just as much as we must continue to insist on a fair and accurate Census.”

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