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Census 2020 operations delayed by coronavirus, start in June

If you're a census slacker and have not

If you're a census slacker and have not filled out the form for the 2020 head count, the federal government is trying another way to get in touch with you. Starting Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau is mailing out millions of paper forms to homes whose residents have yet to answer.  Credit: AP/Paul Sancya

The U.S. Census Bureau, citing impact from the coronavirus pandemic, has delayed its field operations for the 2020 Census until June 1.

The bureau has also asked Congress permission to postpone reporting state population totals, used for congressional apportionment, until April 2021--a four-month delay.

"In order to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau is seeking statutory relief from Congress of 120 additional calendar days to deliver final apportionment counts," the bureau said in a statement Monday. If Congress approves, it would mean the state population counts the bureau would normally deliver to the president on Dec. 31, 2020, would be delivered by April 30, 2021.

The requested delay would also mean that redistricting data delivered to the states would be pushed back as well. The bureau's statement said that data would be delivered to the states "no later than July 31, 2021."

The revised operational schedule does not require congressional approval. Originally, field operations were set to start Wednesday, already a delayed start because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"The Census Bureau temporarily suspended 2020 Census field data collection activities in March," the statement said. "Steps are already being taken to reactivate field offices beginning June 1, 2020, in preparation for the resumption of field data collection operations as quickly as possible following June 1."

Rebecca Sanin, president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, who is coordinating the Island's 2020 Census outreach, praised the delay, noting census activities in communities can't begin until "it's safe to do so."

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Sanin's plea to Long Islanders: "My call to action is please complete this census now," noting it can be done online, by phone or mailing the paper questionnaire. "Take the time to complete the census now, while you are in your homes … because it is something you can do that will affect your future, your family's future and the entire Long Island region."

Jeffrey Wice, a New York Law School adjunct professor and senior fellow who heads the school's New York Census and Redistricting Institute, said while the delay in field operations was no doubt necessary, he saw challenges for the states.

"I’m pleased that the census bureau is going to extend the people counting period," Wice said. "But extending the reapportionment deadline and delivery of census data to the states then runs up against different statutory state deadlines." He added: "I'm hoping states don’t use this delay to keep themselves in power on the old lines drawn a few years ago. This is all uncharted, unprecedented. It will play out different in each state."

Wice said New York might not be adversely affected because the State Legislature is not required to finalize redistricting until 2022. 

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