The Census Bureau is halting its field operations to count the population a month ahead of schedule, the agency's director announced in a statement Monday night, raising fears of a national undercount.
Steven Dillingham said in a statement posted on the bureau's website that the agency is ending all of its counting efforts on Sept. 30, a month sooner than previously expected, which means all enumerators who are door-knocking to collect responses from those who have not already self-responded online, by phone or by mail will halt their efforts then.
He also said those self-response options will also close on that date.
The move has raised fears among various civil rights groups, researchers and other experts who fear that a significant portion of the population, such as minorities and immigrants, could be left of out the tally.
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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency requested bipartisan action this past spring to extend its mandated Dec. 31 deadline for turning in apportionment data to the president and data to the states by four month to April 30, 2021, instead of March 31, 2021. However, the legislation stalled in the Senate.
Dillingham said in order to meet its statutory deadlines to turn over data the bureau's plans are to "accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts."
Last month, the agency began sending staff members to households that have not responded. The bureau reported that as of Monday, 63 percent of U.S. households had completed their census forms, which means nearly 4 in 10 Americans have yet to be counted.
It also comes after President Donald Trump signed a memo last month that aims to bar undocumented immigrants living in the country from being included in the census for purposes of deciding how many members of Congress are apportioned to each state.
"The Trump Administration has tried to manipulate the 2020 Census for the last four years and is continuing those attempts with the changes announced last night," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The census results are used to determine the number of seats in the House each state is allocated, the redrawing of congressional districts and it affects the dispersal of billions of federal dollars, which typically fund hospitals, roads, schools, and other community resources.