Census Bureau Reverses Course on Layoffs After Court Order

September 8, 2020 by Dan McCue
(Jonathan Weiss/Dreamstime/TNS)

The Census Bureau told a federal judge on Tuesday that it will delay laying off some census takers and will restore quality-control measures it had already begun winding down as the end of the once-a-decade population count nears its end.

The notice, in a court filing, came two days after U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the downsizing until at least Sept. 17.

On that date she’ll hold a hearing on a more permanent injunction requested by a coalition of cities, counties and civil rights groups who want the bureau to abide by its plan for finishing the census in October.

The Census Bureau pushed back ending the count from the end of July to the end of October after a resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak. It also asked Congress to extend the deadline for turning in the apportionment numbers from December, as required by law, into next spring.

When the Republican-controlled Senate failed to take up the request, the bureau created a revised schedule that had the census ending in September so it could meet the December deadline.

The agency subsequently announced a new schedule in which it said it planned to end the count at the end of September.

The plaintiffs in the case say they fear a premature end to the count will leave them short changed when the federal government uses the new count to determine how approximately $1.5 trillion in federal funding is distributed and how many congressional seats each state gets in the upcoming reapportionment.

The Census Bureau’s plan outlining compliance with the order says some quality-control steps that had been eliminated with the changed schedule will be restored.

Those include verifying vacant homes, making extra home visits to households with conflicting information about whether they are vacant and making extra home visits when investigating potential cases of fraud.

The plaintiffs argue the Census Bureau changed the schedule to accommodate a directive from President Donald Trump to exclude people in the country illegally from the numbers used in redrawing congressional districts.

A December deadline for handing in the apportionment numbers means the statistics will still be under the authority of the Trump administration, regardless of who wins the November election.

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