The U.S. Census Bureau is delaying field operations until April 1 to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
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The White House announced on a “hastily arranged a call” on Monday morning that it wants to delay aspects of the U.S. census for several weeks, including timetables for releasing data used to draw congressional and legislative districts, according to the top House Democrat overseeing the Census Bureau.
Under the new arrangement, the Census Bureau would have to deliver state population data for reapportionment — the process of carving up congressional districts — by April 30, 2021, instead of Dec. 31, 2020. The bureau said in a statement that its field offices would reopen after June 1 and that it wanted the deadline for wrapping up the nation’s head count to move from Aug. 15 to Oct. 31.
Additionally, the White House was seeking to push back the deadline for giving states data for redistricting from next March to next July. Field operations for the 2020 census have been suspended since mid-March and were set to resume this week; the deadline for finishing the head count had already been pushed back from the end of July to mid-August because of the pandemic.
The news — and how it was delivered by the White House — frustrated Democrats on Monday.
“The Director of the Census Bureau was not on the call, nor was any official from the Census Bureau,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the House oversight committee, said in her own statement, which raised the possibility she would reject the administration’s request.
“As Chairwoman of the authorizing committee for the Census Bureau, I am committed to a complete and accurate Census count,” Maloney said. “The Oversight Committee will carefully examine the Administration’s request, but we need more information that the Administration has been unwilling to provide. The Director of the Census Bureau was not even on today’s call, and the Administration has refused for weeks to allow him to brief Members of our Committee, despite repeated requests.”
Maloney added: “If the Administration is trying to avoid the perception of politicizing the Census, preventing the Census Director from briefing the Committee and then excluding him from a call organized by the White House are not encouraging moves. 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.”
FILE – In this Aug. 13, 2019, file photo, a worker gets ready to pass out instructions on how to fill out the 2020 census during a town hall meeting in Lithonia, Ga. The U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, suspended field operations for two weeks, citing the health and safety of its workers and the U.S. public from the novel coronavirus. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)
U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham confirmed that they were “seeking statutory relief from Congress of 120 additional calendar days to deliver final apportionment counts” in order to “ensure the completeness and accuracy of the 2020 Census.”
The census’ field operations are a massive public relations campaign dedicated to increasing turnout, especially in areas that are traditionally harder to count, which includes community events, resources and more.
The New York Times reported that 90 public census events in Detroit were canceled. In Allentown, Pa., the Times reported, a local basketball tournament that would have promoted the census was canceled.
The Census Bureau allows Americans to respond to the census by phone – as well as online or by mail – but in an effort to meet social distancing guidelines it has had to reduce the staffing at its call centers.
The bureau says those staffing reductions have at times “led to increases in call wait times, affecting different languages at different times.”
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel, Tyler Olson, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.