‘We’re scrambling’: US Supreme Court halts 2020 Census count for now

Long Beach neighborhood groups and nonprofits are scrambling to meet a constantly shifting deadline after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the Trump Administration’s request to stop the 2020 Census count from continuing—at least for now.

The Trump administration sought out the court’s support to suspend a district court’s order permitting the 2020 Census to continue through the end of the month, AP News reported.

The administration argued that the count needed to end immediately to allow the US Census Bureau enough time to collect all the numbers before a congressionally mandated year-end deadline to determine how many congressional seats each state gets.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in California ruled that the census head count of every US resident could continue through the end of October. Koh said the shortened schedule ordered by the Trump administration likely would produce inaccurate results that would last a decade.

Census workers for months have been working through the coronavirus pandemic to register residents nationwide for the once-in-a-decade count, which helps determine how money is invested into communities.

In Long Beach, Julian Cernuda, the city’s census project manager, said his team has partnered with local nonprofit and neighborhood groups to register and count low-income communities.

With the court’s new order in place, Cernuda said he and his team have less than two days to wrap up any census count operations they have.

“We are doing everything we can these next two days to get the word out,” he said. “We’re scrambling, but so much is at stake for the community—that keeps us going.”

According the bureau, over 99.9% of housing units have been accounted for in this year’s census. Cernuda said that it may seem like a lot of families have been counted, but that still leaves hundreds of thousands of households unaccounted for.

“If you want an accurate count that’s not good,” he said. Cernuda and his partners were focusing their counting efforts in historically undercounted communities in North, Central and West Long Beach. A census tract in community of College Park located at the border of North Long Beach and Compton was 10 points below its 2010 numbers, Cernuda said.

He argued that his team needed more time to work with Latino, Black and Cambodian communities that often have distrust of the government’s census. Cernuda said the rumors that an immigration status question was on the census drew away some families from participating in the count.

With only 48 ours left to complete any counting operations, Cernuda said his team is doing outreach at grocery stores.

In April, when the pandemic was in its early stages, the bureau announced it would extend the deadline for people to respond to Oct. 31. But on Aug. 3, the bureau shortened the deadline to Sept. 30.

A lawsuit from a coalition of nonprofits and the City of Los Angeles also seeks to give the bureau until April instead of Dec. 31, which was part of the census plan devised earlier this year.

Self-response and field data collection operations for the census will conclude on Oct. 15. In September, Long Beach was averaging a 66.9% self-response rate—during the last census, the city’s response rate was 68.3%.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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