After Briefing with Census Experts, Haaland Calls for More Coordination to Ensure New Mexico Communities Get Fair Share of Resources

April 15, 2020
Press Release

Albuquerque, N.M. – After a House Oversight Committee briefing with U.S. Census Experts yesterday, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) is calling for more coordination to ensure New Mexico communities get their fair share of resources. On Monday, the Census Bureau announced that field operations for the 2020 Census will resume on June 1st at earliest due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. Last week, the rate of increase in response to the 2020 Census declined and is still far below the response rate to the 2010 Census during the same time in enumeration.

Earlier this year the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it would halt direct, in-person outreach to keep families and Census enumerators from contracting coronavirus. During the briefing, Haaland asked specifically what can be done to increase response rates in communities that typically rely on direct outreach for accurate counts. John Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice emphasized the need to keep the Census visible and the ongoing challenge of increasing visibility during a pandemic.

“Every single person in this country matters, but the challenges that the coronavirus has caused, coupled with the challenges of counting hard-to-count communities, means that we have to adjust our strategy to ensure every community has its fair share of resources,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland. “I’m calling for broad coordination to make sure New Mexico has support for hospitals, schools, roads, broadband internet and infrastructure well into the future.”

The briefing included the following experts:

  • John Thompson, former Director, Census Bureau
  • Arturo Vargas, Chief Executive Officer, NALEO Educational Fund
  • John Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Terri Ann Lowenthal, leading Census consultant

 

Census experts provided the following information during the briefing:

 

  • Census Bureau Must Work with Congress:  The experts informed Members that it is critical for the Census Bureau to work closely with the Committee in the coming weeks and months, including on legislation requested by the Administration to delay key aspects of the Census.  Mr. Thompson, who ran the Census Bureau from 2013 to 2017 and led much of the planning for the 2020 Census, emphasized that “it is more important than ever before to maintain a transparent dialogue with stakeholders and with the Congress.”  He explained that the Census Bureau must be open with Congress “on how they spend their money, on how their recruiting is going, and if they need any change in regulation.”

 

  • Boosting Self-Response is Key:  In light of the Census Bureau’s plan to delay in-person counting by several months, the experts recommended several immediate steps to encourage self-response, including new mailings and advertisements targeted at hard-to-count communities.  Mr. Vargas and Mr. Yang encouraged the Census Bureau to emphasize mail and phone response options, noting that these tend to be more popular in some minority communities.  Mr. Vargas also warned that “the response rate in counties with a higher population of Latinos is currently about 20% lower than counties with lower populations of Latinos.”

 

  • Delays Could Hurt Data Accuracy:  Ms. Lowenthal, a leading Census consultant, warned that the delay in the Census caused by the coronavirus outbreak represented an “unprecedented disruption in the Census plan” and that the “quality and accuracy of the Census hang in the balance in every state and in a diversity of communities.”  She explained that data accuracy tends to decline as we get further away from April 1, 2020, and that hurricane season in August through October could create new challenges for in-person counting.