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Sánchez Leads 37 Lawmakers to Call for Complete and Accurate Census Count During Coronavirus Crisis

March 13, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DCRep. Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38) along with 37 more Members of Congress urged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham to consider alternative options for ensuring a complete and accurate census count, highlighting the increased risk of an undercount during the coronavirus outbreak.

“If the Administration's handling of the coronavirus so far is any indication, there is real reason for concern around the census count,” said Congresswoman Sánchez. “As we practice social distancing across the country, many of the census outreach events are getting put on the chopping block. Given these circumstances, we need creative effective solutions that encourage people to participate. There’s too much at stake for working families and communities across the country like mine.”

The letter is signed by Representatives Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), J. Luis Correa (CA-46), Harley Rouda (CA-48), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-3), Dina Titus (NV-1), Brian Higgins (NY-26), TJ Cox (CA-21), Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Jerry McNerney (CA-9), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY-3), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5), Darren Soto (FL-9), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Silvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Steven Horsford (NV-4), John Larson (CT-1), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Doris Matsui (CA-6), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Susie Lee (NV-3), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Deb Haaland (NM-1), Joyce Beatty (OH-3), Juan Vargas (CA-51), John Lewis (GA-5), Ben Ray Luján (NM-3), Judy Chu (CA-27), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Jan Schakowsky (IL-19), and Jimmy Gomez (CA-34).

Text of the letter:

March 13, 2020

Dear Secretary Ross and Director Dillingham: 

We write to express our concerns regarding the impact of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) on participation and operations for the 2020 Census, particularly as it presents an increased risk of an undercount. We understand that the Census Bureau is actively monitoring the situation in order to adapt operations to ensure a complete and accurate count. As you develop contingency plans, we urge you to consider how historically marginalized communities, people experiencing homelessness, and communities with low broadband access will be reached. 

As Members of Congress, we have been working with local, state, and non-government stakeholders to ensure my constituents have adequate opportunities to respond to the 2020 Census. We have secured Mobile Questionnaire Assistance Centers (MQACs) in communities, organized Census job fairs, and coordinated outreach events. By working with trusted community partners, constituents have access to language and technical assistance when completing the Census. Unfortunately, many of these activities involve members of the community coming together. 

Due to recent developments around COVID-19, there is increased concern and uncertainty about attending any community events. As a result, large and small events across the country have been canceled. It may seem simple to encourage everyone to respond online. However, this method is not an option for thousands of people. 

While we appreciate your work to build a robust online infrastructure, simply pointing people to the online form is insufficient. We urge you to consider alternative options including but not limited to: extending the enumeration period for non-response follow up and for people experiencing homelessness. We believe these steps are necessary to protect public health while ensuring a complete and accurate count. 

In order to provide adequate resources to constituents, please provide written responses to the following questions by March 27, 2020:

  1. What steps is the Bureau taking to develop contingency plans for the 2020 Census during the current pandemic?  
  1. How will contingency plans address the needs of people with little to no access to broadband?
  1. How will people living in non-traditional housing be reached?
  1. How will people experiencing homelessness be reached?
  1. How will individuals who have been quarantined as a result of COVID-19 be reached?
  1. How will individuals residing in skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities be reached? Individuals residing in Department of Veterans Affair Community Living Centers (VA Nursing Homes)?
  1. How will the Census Bureau ensure the health and safety of enumerators?
  1. What guidance will you provide to operators of Mobile Questionnaire Centers?
  1. What safety precautions is the Census Bureau taking to ensure the health and safety of those staffing and visiting MQCs? How quickly will community partners be expected to adapt to changes set in place by the Bureau as a result of the pandemic?
  1. When will the Bureau issue guidance to local, state, and non-government partners that are hosting community events?

Thank you in advance for your responses to these critical questions. We appreciate your efforts to ensure a complete and accurate count.

Sincerely,