The U.S. Census Bureau will end the 2020 Census count on Sept. 30, about a month earlier than previously announced. Some in the Miami Valley worry that this will lead to an inaccurate count that would paint a different picture of the region than is reality.
The bureau’s director, Steven Dillingham, said in a statement on Monday that the Census Bureau will hire more employees to accelerate the completion of data collection by the deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, which is required by law and directed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. The Census Bureau had previously planned on an April 2021 deadline because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but the Trump administration has denied the extension.
Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald said that having less time to count the community “is not very good news for any community.”
“The more time, the better,” McDonald said, “especially in a community like our where we’ve got citizens outside the community who are coming back. We need that additional time to reach them and get a complete count.”
McDonald said that about 60% of Trotwood has responded to the 2020 Census. The city has not been able to do outreach like it normally would because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Time is necessary, we need more time to do everything because we have been sheltering in place and social distancing. We’re not in person and that is making everything more of a challenge,” McDonald said. “I think this hampers the community.”
On Tuesday, four former directors of the Census Bureau issued a statement warning that an earlier deadline would “result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country,” and urged the administration to add more time for the Census Bureau to complete it’s count. The directors, who served under Democratic and Republican presidents, also urged Congress to assemble a trusted body of experts to develop standards for assessing the quality of the bureau’s population totals.
Twenty four U.S. Senators, including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, wrote a letter urging U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to reverse this decision.
“This appears to be yet another effort to sabotage a successful Census, which include the administration’s earlier attempts to add an unnecessary and divisive citizenship question and the recent issuance of a memorandum seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants for apportionment purposes. Ending operations early, especially non-response follow up, will disproportionately disadvantage hard-to-count communities,” the Democratic senators wrote.
Nikol Miller, the chair of the Dayton-Montgomery County Complete Count Committee, said the April 2021 extension would have given the Census Bureau the best chance at getting a complete count.
“You’d think a concession could be made in this coronavirus environment, but their hands are tied behind their backs at this point,” Miller said.
Census workers will start knocking on doors locally on Aug. 11, Miller said.
Montgomery County ranks 53 out of 88 Ohio counties for residents who have responded to the census, according to data from the Census Bureau. About 67% of the state has responded to the census. Sixty-six percent of Montgomery County residents have responded to the census.
“We’ve been making good strides to get a count, but this is going to effect it in a negative way,” said Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw.
As of Aug. 4, the most recent data available, about half of the residents of Dayton have responded to the 2020 Census. Dayton ranks 770 out of 928 Ohio cities for the percentage of residents who have responded to the census.
“I’ve been concerned about a man (President Donald Trump) who not only wants to stop counting people, but then, you know, cancel elections. There’s a lot of self-interest in those kinds of decisions, especially when the Census Bureau is actually asking for a longer time,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
The new September deadline gives the city about eight weeks to count the other half of its residents. Whaley said this is not enough time.
“I think we’ll have a significant under count and I think that’s what he wants. He wants places like the city of Dayton not to be counted,” Whaley said. “It’s more diverse and he’s just been very anti-city-with-diverse-population his entire time as president.”
Shaw echoed the mayor’s sentiment.
“It was already going to be hard to get a good count with this virus going around… but to shut it off four weeks early, it’s really just unfortunate,” Shaw said. “It doesn’t serve our community very well.”
A recent study shows every person that’s counted represents about $1,800 per year, or over 10 years $18,000 per person.
“If we’re under-counted, underrepresented, we’re not going to get the valuable resources we so desperately need, especially in this time,” Shaw said. “I think it’s a terrible mistake. I think this is a terrible and awful decision and I do not agree with it.”
Whaley said that her message to Dayton was simple: “(The president) doesn’t want you to be counted, so make sure you are counted.”
Miller said the Dayton-Montgomery County Complete Count Committee will try to go to area churches to drum up census responses. The committee will also be at the Montgomery County Job Center, 1111 Edwin C. Moses Boulevard, on Mondays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help residents fill out the 2020 Census online.
They will be at the Job Center starting Aug. 10.
Miami Valley residents can fill out the census via telephone by calling (844) 330-2020. That is a toll-free phone number.
To fill out the 2020 Census online, go to my2020census.gov. Miller said after Sept. 30, no one will be able to submit a census form via the web.
“People make decisions everyday based on who lives where,” Miller said. “We need to make sure resources come back to the community. We’ll have to live with these numbers for the next 10 years.”