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Foundations Seek Extension on 2020 Census

August 26, 2020

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The REACH Foundation joined more than 500 philanthropic organizations in early August in signing a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce calling for reversal of a decision to shorten the timeline for completion of the 2020 Census. The U.S. Census Bureau will end its efforts to count every person in the U.S. on September 30, one month earlier than previously published – a move that is expected to result in an undercount of hard-to-count groups. The letter urged the U.S. Census Bureau to “maintain its constitutional responsibilities to enumerate every household that has not responded on its own, in order to achieve a fair and accurate count.”

The foundations, along with local and state governments and other entities, have raised concerns about efforts to curtail the operation when census workers are conducting the non-response follow-up (NRFU) process that involves knocking on doors to reach people who have not responded to the census.

“The bottom line is that shortening the census in the face of national public health and economic crises will result in inaccurate data, distorting the true picture of America for the next decade,” said Gary D. Bass, executive director of the Bauman Foundation and chair of the Funders Census Initiative, a national philanthropic collaborative to promote a fair and accurate census.

The Census Bureau began encouraging people to respond online in mid-March as COVID-19 began to spread. The U.S. Census Bureau and organizations across the country, including in the Kansas City region, had planned outreach efforts at libraries, community events and other places where people gather. The KC Regional Complete Count Committee, facilitated by the Mid-America Regional Council, had identified more than 100 sites to help people complete the census. Those plans were tabled when the pandemic forced the closing of libraries, schools and public events.

“Given the necessary delays caused by the pandemic, we urge our Congressional delegation from Kansas and Missouri to direct the U.S. Census Bureau to maintain the October 31 end date for the door knocking and self-response operations, and ensure the census is conducted thoroughly and in accordance with the United States Constitution and the Census Bureau’s own quality standards,” said REACH Foundation CEO Brenda Sharpe. “Everyone in America deserves to be counted.”

The REACH Foundation became involved in Census 2020 mobilization in 2018. The foundation helped to fund the formation of the KC Regional Complete Count Committee and the creation of a Metro Kansas City Census Equity Fund at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation to support focused outreach in hard-to-count communities. REACH’s investments in census outreach totaled $140,710 in 2019.

The full text of the letter and list of signatories can be found here.

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