Census Count Delayed by Three Months Because of Coronavirus

The once-per-decade U.S. census will be delayed by at least three months, the Commerce Department told Congress on Monday, as the coronavirus pandemic hinders in-person data collection from households.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced field operations will be delayed until June 1, and that in turn would delay completion of the count until Oct. 31. He asked Congress Monday to grant his department a 120-day extension of statutory deadlines as a result of the outbreak. A leading House Democrat said Congress will consider the request.

The 2020 Census will be used to determine the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the distribution of federal tax revenue to the states. The Census said in a statement that under its plan, apportionment counts would be finished by April 30, 2021, instead of Dec. 31 and redistricting data would be delivered to the states by July 31, 2021, instead of March 31, 2021.

“The Oversight Committee will carefully examine the administration’s request, but we need more information that the administration has been unwilling to provide,” House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. “The Constitution charges Congress with determining how the Census is conducted, so we need the administration to cooperate with our requests so we can make informed decisions on behalf of the American people.”

The Census Bureau temporarily suspended field data collection activities in March because of the outbreak and said Monday that 70 million households, some 48% of the total, have already responded to the questionnaire.

This year’s count was already the subject of a pitched battle over Ross’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the form. Democrats said the Trump administration was attempting to intimidate undocumented immigrants into failing to respond to the census, which could lead to an undercount. The attempt was abandoned in the wake of court challenges.

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