(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Congressman David Price (NC-04), Congressman José E. Serrano, co-Chair of the Congressional Census Caucus, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform and co-Chair of the Congressional Census Caucus, and Congressman Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross today urging the Trump Administration to provide answers on the Census Bureau’s plans to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 Census. The Members expressed concern about how the Bureau will ensure a complete count of hard-to-count populations during the viral outbreak and requested a briefing on the Bureau’s plans for ensuring a fair and accurate census.
“As a House appropriator, I know an accurate count is essential to dispersing federal funds equitably and I’m deeply concerned COVID-19 may hamper efforts to count vulnerable populations,” said Congressman Price. “We need a detailed explanation of the agency’s contingency plans, and I’ll continue pressing until we receive answers.”
“The coronavirus could have an adverse effect on the 2020 Census, and the Bureau needs to have detailed plans in place to address any disruptions this pandemic may cause. Earlier this week, in answer to a hearing question, Secretary Ross assured me the Census Bureau is ready for any contingency. However, he left a lot unsaid, and I remain concerned that the Census Bureau is not adequately prepared,” said Congressman Serrano, Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Census Caucus. “The COVID-19 coronavirus could have an adverse impact on individuals’ self-response rate, as well as enumerators’ and partnership organizations’ ability to help ensure an accurate count. I believe that the Department of Commerce needs to provide answers on the agency’s contingency-specific plans to prevent the virus from affecting the 2020 Census’ accuracy.”
“As Chair of the Committee on Oversight Reform and co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Census Caucus, I am dedicated to ensuring a fair, full, and accurate 2020 Census,” said Chairwoman Maloney. “We simply cannot afford to get this wrong. If people aren’t counted – they are not represented. The Census Bureau must share with the public the plans they are putting in place to make sure we get the full count that the country deserves and that the Constitution mandates.”
“I am committed to ensuring a successful and complete 2020 Census count for all communities, including those affected by COVID-19,” said Congressman Raskin. “I join my colleagues in urging Secretary Ross to share with us his contingency plans for the Census Bureau to ensure participation in the 2020 Census is not harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A copy of the letter can be found here. The letter requests that Secretary Ross answer the following questions:
- What contingency plans does the Census Bureau have in place for potential epidemics during the 2020 Census?
- How does the Census Bureau anticipate COVID-19 may impact the 2020 Census, including in the following areas:
- Recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and retention of census workers;
- Non-response follow-up; and
- Group quarters enumeration?
- What steps is the Census Bureau taking or planning to take to mitigate the impact in these same areas? What role does the Department expect the previously announced Census fusion center to play?
- How has the Census Bureau coordinated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and state and local health departments to develop protocols in response to the potential threat of COVID-19?
- Does the Census Bureau plan to utilize its appropriated contingency funding to address the potential impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 Census? If there are no plans to do so at this time, how will the Bureau evaluate the necessity of using these funds?
- How does the Census Bureau plan to promote high self-response rates for households, including those who may eventually be under quarantine or isolation? Will the Bureau be issuing any public guidance or amending its advertising and outreach campaign?
- What information has the Census Bureau communicated to staff, including 2020 Census Takers, regarding actions and policy changes in response to COVID-19, including with respect to non-response follow-up operations?
- What steps is the Census Bureau taking to protect the health of census workers?
- Is the Census Bureau considering extending the time period for self-response, non-response follow-up, or group quarters enumeration? If not, will the Bureau revisit that decision depending on conditions in the coming weeks?
- Is the Bureau communicating with colleges and universities that have cancelled classes or asked students to leave campus in order to clarify where to count those students on April 1?