WASHINGTON — The U.S. Census Bureau made the disturbing announcement this week that it will cut field data collection efforts for the 2020 census short, ending their efforts a month earlier than planned and compromising their ability to achieve an accurate count — which is the purpose of a census. This revelation comes after the latest Senate majority COVID-19 relief proposal abandoned the vital House-passed extension of census reporting deadlines. It also follows the Trump administration’s recent attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from data reported for congressional apportionment.
This deliberate undermining of the census by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress will ensure that the people being hit the hardest by this pandemic — Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities, people experiencing homelessness, and other historically underserved communities — will also be the ones who are left out of an accurate and fair census count.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“We are in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, an economic crisis, and a national reckoning over systemic racism. Now is the time to ensure those feeling the full force of these crises are rightfully counted in the 2020 census. By cutting census efforts short, those hit hardest by the pandemic — the Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, people with low income, and people experiencing homelessness — will be purposefully deprived of the representation and support they need and are entitled to, including health care, education, and housing resources. COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses already present in these systems, and we must prevent the disenfranchisement of future generations that would happen as a result of rushing this critical process. The Senate must immediately extend reporting deadlines. Their action, or inaction, over the next few days will affect us for the next 10 years.”
The census is critical to equitably distributing federal resources and ensuring equal representation to communities throughout the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically undermined the census procedures, and the Census Bureau itself noted a complete and accurate count is impossible without deadline extensions. People of color, people with low incomes, and people experiencing homelessness have been historically underrepresented in census data and will be most harmed by adding extensive barriers to the census and failing to add necessary extensions.
One likely outcome of an undercount is a reduction in the amount of support for women’s health programs for those who need it most. More than 5 million people have lost their health insurance during this pandemic. One in five women of reproductive age use Medicaid and, due to centuries of structural racism that have put up both health and economic barriers, roughly a third of Black and Latinx people in this country rely on Medicaid, compared to only around 15% of white people. Medicaid alone accounts for 58% of census-guided funding.
Census data also determines people’s long-term representation at the federal, state, and local levels; as the Senate majority continues to fail to put in place appropriate voting safety measures, the census is crucial to ensuring that current and future elections don’t leave these communities out of our democracy.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational, advocacy and electoral activity, including grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and voter education.