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By Tim Leeds 

Judge moves Census deadline back to Oct. 31


Last updated 9/28/2020 at Noon

With less than a week to the deadline for data collection in the 2020 U.S. Census, a federal District Judge has ordered the Census Bureau to again move the deadline back to Oct. 31.

The Census originally was expected to be completed by July, but as the COVID-19 pandemic shut the nation down, The Census Bureau extended the deadline to the end of October.

In late July or early August, the bureau moved the deadline back to Sept. 31.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ordered the bureau to continue the count through Oct. 31.

The Census Bureau said in a release Friday that it will comply with the court’s order and continue its Nonresponse Followup Operation.

“Our office of general counsel is evaluating the ultimate impact of the order on the 2020 Census,” the release said. “Field staff have been instructed to continue with current operations until updates can be provided.”

Associated Press reports attorneys for the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce said Friday they would file an appeal and asked the judge to suspend the injunction while that happens.

“This ruling restores Census operations to their originally planned deadline, and it’s the right call to make sure every Montanan is counted,” U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a release Friday. “But the administration’s appeal is another blatant attempt to undermine the Census and keep folks— particularly Native American communities across our state — from participating, which puts Montana’s chances of gaining a second congressional seat in jeopardy. Congress needs to put this issue to rest, and I urge Sen. McConnell and my Republican colleagues to stop blocking my bipartisan legislation to give the Census Bureau the time it needs to get the job done.”

Tester said in the release that he is cosponsoring the bipartisan 2020 Census Extension Act, which would require the Census Bureau to continue 2020 Census field operations until Oct. 31, giving the Census Bureau more time to ensure every Montanan is counted. Additionally, the bill extends the deadline for the delivery of apportionment data to the U.S. House of Representatives from Dec. 31 to April 30 and extends the statutory delivery of redistricting data to states from March 31 to July 31.

Senate Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have refused to bring the legislation up for a vote, the release said.

Sen. Steve Daines, who is up for re-election and faces Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock in the General Election, said he also cosponsored the Census Extension Act.

“The 2020 Census will have a lasting impact on Montana; including the distribution of federal resources to the state and even the potential for more representation in Congress,” Daines said in a release about the bill Thursday. “We must extend the census deadline to Oct. 31st to ensure a proper count is completed in Montana.”

Daines had not issued any press releases about the court decision by print deadline this morning.

Rep. Greg Gianforte, who is not running for re-election to the U.S. House and faces Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Libertarian Lyman Bishop in the race for governor, also had not issued any releases on the court decision by printing deadline this morning.

Bullock and Cooney issued a release Friday.

“A complete count in the 2020 Census is a foundational part of shaping Montana’s next decade,” Bullock said in the release. “More time will help our state regain some of the ground we’ve lost due to COVID-19 to secure our fair share of federal funding for critical things like health care, schools and roads, and to ensure our local school and voting districts accurately reflect the people who live in them. An accurate count of our residents could even amount to more representation in our democracy for Montanans. I strongly urge the federal administration not to discount entire communities in rural states like Montana and let this decision stand.”

“We are pulling out all the stops to encourage every Montanan to make sure they’re counted in this once-in-a-decade opportunity, and we will take full advantage of every day we can get,” Cooney, who is the chairman of the State Complete Count Committee, said in the release. “With all the goal-post-moving throughout this process, it’s critical to stay focused on what’s truly important: Ensuring Montanans are represented at every level of government. And that starts with a complete Census count.”

Bullock also announced in the release that he is allocating $130,000 in Coronavirus Relief Funds to the Montana Department of Commerce to continue its expanded outreach efforts to reach low-response areas of the state, particularly in rural counties and tribal nations in Montana. In June, Governor Bullock directed $530,500 in Coronavirus Relief Funds to the Montana Department of Commerce to support Census promotion and outreach.

Bullock and Cooney urged U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in an August letter to uphold the U.S. Census Bureau’s commitment to a complete count following disruptions to the Bureau’s operations due to COVID-19, the release said.

As the fourth-largest state in the nation, with disruptions from COVID-19, and with more than a quarter of the state’s residents not receiving Census information because they get their mail at non-traditional addresses, Montana’s self-response rate to the 2020 Census lags behind most states, the release added. As of Friday, Montana’s self-response rate was 59.7 percent, compared to the national average of 66.3 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Including door-to-door counting by federal Census workers, the total number of Montana households enumerated so far is 91.9 percent, compared to the national average of 96.6 percent.

The federal government is responsible for conducting the decennial count, while the state supports the effort to inform Montanans about the importance of the Census.

People can respond to the 2020 Census online at http://my2020census.gov, or by calling 1-844-330-2020.

District 4 Human Resources Development Council is hosting a “Last Chance to Make it Count” Census event Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. in its Fireside Room in the HRDC building at 2229 Fifth Ave. 

HRDC will be providing $25 Town Pump Gas Cards to the first 10 households that complete their census and we will be providing a brownbag dinner for all who attend. 

The census conducted every 10 years helps determine federal funding to an area as well as set the number of lawmakers a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

This Census could determine that Montana would regain a second seat in the House, which is lost after the 1990 Census.

It is estimated that every person counted equates to $2,000 in federal funding each year, and would lose that funding, or $20,000 per person until the next Census, if the state population is undercounted.


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