ST. PAUL, MN (STL.News) Minnesota Governor Tim Walz sent a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau this week urging the Bureau to reconsider their decision to end the 2020 Census response period one month early and extend the deadline to October 31, 2020, as originally planned. These last-minute changes to the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the United States announced on August 3, 2020, threaten the accuracy of population numbers used to determine the distribution of political representation and federal funding for the next decade.
“By your own calculations made when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the October 31 date is crucial for the Census Bureau to be able to meet its constitutional obligation and do so in a way that does not jeopardize the public health,” reads the letter from Governor Walz. “As our state works to recover and rebuild in the eventual wake of the pandemic and the economic crisis it has spawned, having a complete and accurate count of all those living in Minnesota is critical to properly directing the resources we need to return to prosperity.”
“In Minnesota, we know that everyone counts and everyone matters – which is why we often lead the nation in Census response rates every decade,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “But we’re not at 100% yet. Ending the 2020 Census response period early puts us at risk of an undercount, especially of Black communities, Native American communities, and communities of color, immigrants and refugees, renters, and children under five. At a time when resources and representation are critically important, we can’t afford to miss anyone. We need to tell the full story of Minnesota.”
Without an extension, the Census response period will end on September 30, 2020. The letter from Governor Walz can be read in full below:
Secretary Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Director Steven Dillingham, Ph.D.
U.S. Census Bureau
4600 Silver Hill Road
Dear Secretary Ross & Director Dillingham:
I’m writing to you because Lieutenant Governor Flanagan and I are deeply concerned about the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent operational change to the 2020 Census in which the response and data collection period is slashed by an entire month. I respectfully urge you to revise your plans and extend the enumeration deadline back to at least October 31, 2020, so that no person or community is left out of the 2020 Census.
Your recent announcement calls into question how millions of Americans who have yet to fill out their 2020 Census will be counted. It is surprising to hear how optimistic the Census Bureau is about being able to reach 100% in less than 3 weeks, given that as of the writing of this letter, non-response follow-up (NRFU) completion rate of only 75% in the Duluth Area Census Office and troubling rate of only 7% self-response rate on Red Lake Reservation. By your own calculations made when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the October 31 date is crucial for the Census Bureau to be able to meet its constitutional obligation and do so in a way that does not jeopardize the public health.
While our state has invested in a successful effort to achieve our nation-leading self-response rate, many Minnesotans remain uncounted today. Shutting down the census early will likely mean an incomplete and inaccurate count, especially of those Minnesotans who are members of historically undercounted communities including people of color, Tribal nations, young adults, and children under the age of five.
As our state works to recover and rebuild in the eventual wake of the pandemic and the economic crisis it has spawned, having a complete and accurate count of all those living in Minnesota is critical to properly directing the resources we need to return to prosperity. The newly adjusted deadline for response makes me especially concerned that our key partners will not be able to do the outreach necessary to ensure the accurate enumeration of rural communities, Tribal communities, immigrant and refugee communities, and communities of color. These communities are already being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and not providing them enough time to complete their 2020 Census would be denying them valuable resources needed for their recovery from this crisis.
Minnesota has made dedicated efforts to ensuring that our hardest-to-count populations are reached by trusted partners through culturally specific and responsive outreach and communications. It is critical that all residents of the United States are aware of the importance of the census and are provided equitable opportunities to participate. An inaccurate count will deprive communities of resources, political power, and the federal assistance necessary to recover from the pandemic for the next ten years.
The decennial census is the foundation of our democracy and tells the story of who we are and where we are going as a nation. Federal funding for essential services and congressional representation is on the line, and it is crucial that we achieve a complete and accurate count.
To that end, I would again ask that you fulfill your constitutionally mandated duties to ensure not a single person is left out of the 2020 Census by extending the response deadline.