Sens. Udall and Cantwell Lead Senators in Pressing for Accurate 2020 Census Count for Native Communities

Aug 31, 2020Congressional Legislation, News

Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) recently joined 18 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in pushing the U.S. Department of Commerce and Census Bureau to ensure that Native American and Native Hawaiian communities are counted accurately in the 2020 census. The letter comes in response to concerns that the Census Bureau’s recently accelerated timeline to complete the census could result in a major undercount of Tribal communities.

“Failure to get a complete and accurate count of these community populations will have long term and devastating impacts ⎯ from redistricting data, to federal funding, to congressional representation,” the senators wrote. “A fair and accurate census is critical to Native communities’ continued and future prosperity.”

In April, the Commerce Department and Census Bureau modified their census operation timeline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the deadline to October 31, 2020. But earlier this month, the Bureau rescinded the modification and announced that it will conclude by September 30, 2020.

Because Tribal communities have some of the highest mortality rates from COVID-19, Tribal governments have taken the precautions necessary to protect the communities during the pandemic, so census response rates have been low in those areas. The letter notes that low response rates and an extensive lack of internet access could result in a serious miscount of Tribal communities.

“American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian leaders have spent months coordinating with the Census Bureau to prepare their communities for the 2020 count and to meet the Bureau’s October 31st deadline,” the senators wrote. “Efforts to get out the count even during a pandemic should not be discounted or cut short.”

Senators Udall and Cantwell were joined in the letter by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).

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