JERSEY CITY, NJ - Local and county leaders are slamming a decision by the US Census Bureau, made at the behest of President Donald Trump, to roll back the deadline to be counted in Census 2020 by one month.

The count will now end on September 30 and the bureau will end all surveying efforts, including door-knocking and collecting responses over the phone, online and by mail, Director Steven Dillingham said in a written statement posted on the bureau’s website. In his update Dillingham suggested the reason for the change was to “accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts” by its statutory deadline of December 31.

Results from the U.S. Census are used to draw political boundaries including for Members of the U.S. Congress and New Jersey Legislature. An effort is underway in the New Jersey State House to allow for current legislative districts to stay as is for 2021 contests before switching to revised ones in time for 2023 races.  

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Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the count was scheduled to be finished by the end of July, but in April, with stay-at-home orders and social distancing measure in place, those responsible for the once a decade count said they needed to extend its timeline and push back its completion to October 31. 

Census counts are also used to determine federal funding levels in the trillions of dollars in key areas such as healthcare, school meal programs, and emergency planning, those that have become especially needed as the region has attempted to beat back the impact of COVID-19. “The dollars for these types of programs are allocated based on census counts. We are seeing now, more than ever, why that matters,” Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise told TAPinto in April as the count commenced. 

This week DeGise called the decision to change course again a “shameful attack” on the most vulnerable residents, but vowed to double down on efforts to make sure everyone gets counted. “President Trump might be okay leaving them behind and out of critical programs that provide meals, healthcare, housing, and more,” he said. “But we are not and will not.”

While New Jersey’s statewide response rate stands at 65 percent, Hudson County’s lags behind at 54.4 percent, a number that several leaders say is brought on by the prevalence of “hard to count” communities, areas where a low percentage of residents complete the census, according to an estimate by The Fund for New Jersey, a public policy group.

About 22% of New Jersey residents—or about 1.9 million—live in hard-to-count areas, including a disproportionate number of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and children under 5, the policy group has said. Other groups that are more likely to be missed include immigrants, people in multi-family housing, non-native English speakers and homeless people.

Just days before what he called a "devastating blow with harmful repercussions" Mayor Steven Fulop was personally knocking on doors in one of Jersey City's most undercounted communities, an area that incudes a mix of public housing, high rise luxury residences, and single family homes. “We get one shot at this,” he said at the time. 

“This will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on Census response, especially in urban areas with diverse populations like Jersey City that are traditionally categorized as hard-to-count," he said of the move before renewing his vow to "accelerate our efforts on the ground to get as many Jersey City residents counted as possible within the shorter timeframe.”

Mayor Jimmy Davis in Bayonne, where just 55.8 percent of households have responded so far, is also concerned about efforts to get a complete count.

“The Trump Administration’s surprise decision to cut short the period for Census 2020 will have bad consequences,” Davis said. “The removal of four weeks from the time allotted for the census will likely cause a serious undercount of our population.”

With the bureau estimating that a state misses out on about $1,800 per year for every person not counted in the census, and that census figures stay in place for a decade, Davis concluded that the result of an undercount is that “Bayonne and other communities will lose federal funding for several programs over the next ten years.”  

For more information or to respond to the census visit https://my2020census.gov/.

 

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