U.S. Census Bureau

Census Concerns: Officials Make Final Push

Document:  A pushed up census deadline is raising accuracy questions.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Down to the wire.  It’s possible census takers may have to wind down their count by the end of September, a month earlier than scheduled.

With just weeks left before the deadline, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and New London Mayor Michael Passero visited a neighborhood in a last-minute push to make sure people have participated.

“The hardest to count areas in our state, our biggest cities, New Haven, New London, Bridgeport, New Britain, Hartford, will have an undercount and our cities need the most help,” Bysiewicz said.

People who have been conducting the census don’t go door to door as much as they used to, due to privacy reasons and the pandemic.  Many host events and get people to fill out a census there.  At the same time, a recent directive from the Census Bureau to wind down the census a month earlier, by the end of September, has created a crunch.

“It definitely makes it more of a challenge.  Yes it does.  If we had more time, we’d be able to do more outreach,” said Nick Fischer, co-chair of the New London Complete Count Census Committee.

Beyond impacting the amount of federal aid our state gets, the once every decade census determines the number of congressional districts, and electoral votes, which is why Connecticut wants everyone counted.

State leaders have estimated for each person counted in the census, a town or city gets roughly $2,900 per year in federal aid.  They said about 4% of our population has not been counted, or 4,000 people in a hypothetical city of 100,000.  Doing the math, that would mean a city that size could lose almost $12 million per year in federal aid.

“If we’re undercounting the people we serve it becomes significant dollars,” said Passero explained.

In a letter obtained by NBC Connecticut Investigates, the chair of the U.S. House Oversight Committee in Washington cited internal census documents from early August showing the Census Bureau will likely have problems completing an accurate count if it must stop a month early.  It said the compressed schedule “…creates risk for serious errors not being discovered in the data…”…adding many states may contest the data. 

However, the letter also said at a later briefing census administrators said they remain confident they will complete an accurate count on time despite a compressed schedule.

The National Urban League got a federal judge to put a temporary hold on winding down the census early, but that could get lifted as soon as Thursday September 16, when there’s another hearing on the matter.

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