County Commissioners Oppose Census Date Change

NORRISTOWN PA – The chair and vice-chair of the three-member Montgomery County Board of Commissioners said they support efforts now under way to prevent the 2020 federal Census from ending a month earlier than scheduled, they announced during this week’s board meeting. The Census Bureau had extended the data collection deadline to Oct. 31 because of the pandemic, then changed the date to Sept. 30.

“Moving the COVID-19 census response deadline from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30 will put Montgomery County at great risk of losing tens of millions of dollars in funding for our most critical programs and services,” Chair Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh claimed, and was joined by Vice-Chair Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr. Both Democrats, they alleged the Trump administration was behind the change.

The Constitution requires a count of every person living in the United States every 10 years. The 2020 Census’ responses were expected to be submitted by April 1, but response rates nationally and locally have been lower in census tracts with larger shares of Hispanic residents, or those with more people living in poverty.

Both groups would be disproportionally impacted by a Census under-count, Arkoosh and Lawrence reasoned, because population levels often determine federal funding distributions. The potential effects of under-counting are reflected in a lawsuit against the date change filed by the National Urban League and the League of Women Voters against the U.S. Commerce Department; it oversees the census count.

Additionally, a friend-of-the-court brief filed to support the lawsuit specifically notes the county “estimates a 5-percent under-count of its residents could cost it more than $72 million in federal funding for schools, infrastructure, Medicaid, SNAP, housing vouchers, and other programs.”

“We are waiting and hoping the court will allow us to go back to the original extension date of Oct. 31 to collect the data we need to serve residents most in need of these funds,” Lawrence noted.

Photo by MJ via Wikimedia Commons, used under a Creative Commons license