Census count coming to early end

By: - October 15, 2020 3:41 pm

Photo via U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau is ending its field and online data collection for its once-in-a-decade headcount on Thursday, two weeks before the Oct. 31 deadline, sparking worries that Arizonans may be undercounted. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration could end census work early. The following day, the Census Bureau announced that it’s ending its count on Oct. 15.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said he was disappointed about the early deadline. 

“I’m very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s failure to acknowledge the federal government’s responsibility to accurately count the Navajo people and many other tribal nations,” Nez said in a press statement. “It’s disheartening that the highest court of the land ignored the devastating impacts that COVID-19 has had on the Navajo Nation and the census count.”

Democratic Congressman Tom O’Halleran, whose 1st Congressional District includes the Navajo Nation, also expressed concern with the Supreme Court’s decision. O’Halleran a 1 percent undercount of his district would result in the loss of $6.3 million in federal funding for health care programs and more than $400,000 for low-income education programs.

“An inaccurate census count will create lasting consequences for our most vulnerable communities over the next ten years, leaving underserved communities without adequate federal funding for health care infrastructure, schools, roads, and more,” O’Halleran said in a press release. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration expressed confidence in the process, saying Arizona is on pace to have one of the most accurate census counts in decades. 

“With 99.9% of Arizona households counted to date and the highest self-response rate in decades, we are confident that Arizona’s full and accurate population will be represented,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said.

According to the Census Bureau, 99.9% of Arizona’s households have been counted, as of Oct. 14. That’s an improvement from early September when Arizona had one of the worst census response rates in the nation.

The 2020 Census has had different deadlines. Initially, President Donald Trump’s administration abruptly announced that it was ending the census count on Sept. 30, a month before the deadline. A lawsuit challenged that change, and in late September a judge ordered the government to continue census data collection with the original deadline at the end of October.

Two of Arizona’s tribal communities are among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that sought to block census work from winding down by the end of September: the Navajo Nation, the country’s largest sovereign Native territory which expands across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and the Gila River Indian Community in Maricopa and Pinal counties. Both communities rely on in-person interactions with census workers, the complaint states.

Arizona is expected to gain one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census data is analyzed for congressional apportionment

Besides determining political representation in Congress, census data is also used to draw local political districts and guide federal funding for social services, education and transportation projects for the next decade. And businesses rely on accurate census counts for managing their operations and growth.

Arizona estimates that each resident who is not counted represents an estimated loss of $887 in federal funding. 

“Even a one-percent undercount would represent a loss of $62 million per year for a decade — a total loss of at least $620 million,” according to a press release from the Arizona Complete Count Committee, which promotes census participation.

Census takers will continue visiting nonresponding addresses through the end of Thursday, according to the Census Bureau. 

If you haven’t responded to the census yet, here’s what to do:

  • Online: Internet self-response will be available across the nation through Oct. 15 through 11:59 pm Hawaii Standard Time (which is 3:59 a.m. Arizona time on Oct. 16). Visit 2020Census.gov to respond.
  • Phone: Phone response will be available from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. Arizona time on Oct. 15. For English, call 844-330-2020; for Spanish, call 844-468-2020. A full list of language support phone numbers can be found on: 2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond/responding-by-phone.html
  • Mail: Mail back the paper questionnaire sent to your home by the Census Bureau. Paper responses must be postmarked by Oct. 15, 2020.

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Laura Gómez Rodriguez previously covered state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror.