Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and dozens of other mayors, have signed a letter asking the U.S. Census Bureau to extend the deadline for collecting responses.
Forty mayors are asking the deadline to be pushed back until the end of September. The deadline, as of now, is August 14.
“Mayor Bottoms signed on to the letter requesting an extension for the regional staff of the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure historically undercounted communities are counted,” a spokesperson said.
The letter says conducting the 2020 count during the pandemic could lead to an undercount of some communities.
“As our cities continue to dedicate resources to respond to this outbreak and take strong precautionary measures to ensure social distancing, there will be diminished capacity to administer the Census,” the letter reads.
Others who have signed the letter include the mayors of Chicago, New York, Phoenix and San Francisco.
Before the pandemic, local governments and community groups across the country were hoping in-person events, such as festivals and town halls, could help get undercounted communities to fill out the questionnaire.
Groups traditionally undercounted by the Census include African Americans, immigrants and renters.
Population estimates from the Census determines how many seats a state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives, how voting districts are drawn and how federal money is allocated for services such as schools and hospitals.
For example, an undercount of children can lead to overcrowded schools. Businesses and social service agencies also use census data to decide where to place establishments such as grocery stores or daycares.
As of this news report, nearly 35% of households have self-responded nationally. In Atlanta, 30% of households have responded. Residents will have until the end of May to self-respond before a Census worker potentially knocks on their door.
In 2010, the self-response rate in Atlanta before a census worker possibly followed up in-person was 59%. Nationally, it was 74%, according to the Census Bureau.
The Census is encouraging residents to respond online. But some mayors are worried that could leave out those with limited Internet access.
The Census is mandated to deliver certain population estimates to the President of the United States by December 31.
“We are not asking for a delay of the deadline getting the Census information to the President,” the letter says, “but urge you to extend the Census deadline to September 30.”