On Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2020 a lower court order to continue counting U.S. residents was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Story by Lauren Stauffer

The City of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Census Team alerted community partners on Monday, Oct. 12 that the original Oct. 31 census deadline has been confirmed by the Census Bureau.

In a statement released on Oct. 2, the U.S. Census Bureau published the following:

“As a result of court orders, the October 5, 2020 target date is not operative, and data collection operations will continue through October 31, 2020. Employees should continue to work diligently and enumerate as many people as possible. Contact your supervisor with any questions.”

According to the Census 2020 Hard to Count Map, the response rates for the region are currently:

City of Pittsburgh: 63.1% (2010: 66.1%) 
Allegheny County: 71.9% (2010: 71.3%) 
Pennsylvania (this includes enumeration numbers): 99.9% 

These numbers are also explained by the Hard To Count (HTC) Map as unlikely to be complete or accurate, despite the Census Bureau saying “it is on track to count at least 99% of U.S. households.” Rushing the count due to the confusion of deadlines being played out in court is affecting how households are being counted. Enumerators are more likely to rely on counting “by proxy,” by asking neighbors to answer for the unresponsive household, using administrative records which can omit groups, such as kids or young adult men of color, or designating units that are currently vacant when the household may have had people living there on April 1 (Census Day).

According to AP News, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals served a clarification and compliance order to the Census Bureau ordering the department to confirm how they will “prevent future violations” of the original injunction order allowing enumerators to continue counting residents through the end of the month. The order did not uphold the original injunction’s stay on the end of year deadline to report the complete Census count on Dec. 31, 2020 to the President.

In turn, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross who is responsible to give the Census report to the President, appealed to the Supreme Court on the same day for a stay of the order to continue appealing the Oct. 31 deadline. The application explains that by not having been able to conclude census counting on Oct. 5, “the partial stay will still require the government to violate the statutory deadline” of Dec. 31, 2020.

The Department of Commerce originally requested a four month extension for the statutory deadline and Rep. Young (R-AK) introduced H.R.8250 known as the “2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act” on Sept. 14, 2020 to “complete and report by the Secretary of Commerce to the President not earlier than 1 year and not later than 13 months after the decennial census date of April 1, 2020.” It has neither passed the House, nor the Senate, and the President must sign it into law.

The decennial census counts the nation’s population to determine apportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives seats for each state; it’s how trillions of federal funding is spent in local communities each year. Funded programs include healthcare, education, emergency services, business development, housing, infrastructure, and more. In a research study by the Census Bureau of the 2015 fiscal year on federal spending based on census data, the top five programs were the Medical Assistance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare Part B, Highway Planning and Construction, and the Federal Pell Grant Program.

Residents can continue to self-complete the decennial census online at 2020census.gov or call the toll-free census response number 1-844-330-2020 where census takers are available to record counts by phone. If a house has not responded, enumerators have been ordered to continue door knocking to ensure accurate counting.

This article is sponsored by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

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