A federal judge has blocked the United States Census Bureau from ending its once-a-decade headcount of every U.S. resident a month earlier than originally planned and ordered the count to continue for another month through the end of October, saying a shortened schedule likely would produce inaccurate results.
The ruling, which is expected to be appealed by the United States Justice Department, came after a coalition of local governments and civil rights groups said the shortened schedule would undercount residents — particularly in minority and hard-to-count communities.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Census Bureau in April said it would need until October 31 to accurately count all American residents due to delays spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, last month the bureau announced that it would “accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts” in order to meet its statutory deadline of December 31.
Census data is used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding for education, health, transportation, housing, community services, and job training. Moreover, businesses and industries decide where to locate new facilities and services based on census data, creating new jobs and promoting economic growth.
The U.S. Constitution places the census at the foundation of our democracy by calling for a count of the nation’s residents every 10 years. The results of the census determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the data is used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
Approximately $375 billion in federal funding will be allocated to states and communities across the nation based on census data. Maryland will lose approximately $1,800 annually for every person not counted.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, Maryland’s 2020 Census Grant Panel awarded over $4 million in matching funds to local governments and organizations that serve hard-to-count communities. The Maryland Department of Planning distributed an additional $900,000 to jurisdictions that did not receive grant funding and to fund a statewide marketing campaign to educate residents on the importance of being counted.
An accurate census count, or lack thereof, has a lasting effect on counties, particularly when it comes to the distribution of federal funds. An under-counted population may lead to a significant decline in federal funding flowing to county governments or to county residents.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 97.5% of Maryland housing units have been accounted for in the 2020 Census with 27.1% counted by census takers and other field data collection operations, and 70.4% of housing units responding online, by phone, or by mail.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.