Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie photo
Census forms (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT—Following weeks of confusion about its deadline, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can end the 2020 Census before Oct. 31, halting a motion from a federal judge in California which ordered the Census Bureau to continue operations through the end of the month.

The Trump administration called for the Census to cut operations short, arguing that the Bureau already has enough data to paint an accurate picture of the country’s population.

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, who has been leading Connecticut’s count, said it’s “disappointinting, but not surprising.” She has said that an earlier deadline “threatens the accuracy” of the Census.

Connecticut currently has a response rate of 99.9% as of Friday. Bysiewicz said each individual who participated in the census will contribute $29,000 to their community over the next 10 years.

The Census also helps to secure fair representation for Connecticut in the U.S. Congress and state redistricting based on how many people live in each town and city.

$11 Billion And Critical Programs At Stake

An accurate census count determines whether Connecticut receives $11 billion or a different amount to fund 55 federal programs and other expenditures, many of which are significant in the middle of a pandemic.

These programs include nutritional services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and Meals on Wheels, as well as Medicare and Medicaid.

“The government can only make these decisions if they have accurate data,” said Nichelle Mullins, who leads the Charter Oak Health Center and the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut.

Additionally, funding from the census goes toward initiatives like transportation, infrastructure improvements and environmental policies. It also helps programs dedicated to people of color and immigrants, both of whom are groups that have been systemically undercounted in the past.

Community action agencies also rely on the federal funding to provide social services for 259,000 individuals in the state, according to Community Renewal Team President Lena Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said that the CRT alone aids 60,000 families annually with programs like rapid housing assistance and foreclosure counseling, both of which have been important in the pandemic. Most of these families are located in Hartford, which is one both of the poorest cities in the country and one of the worst-counted.

“We have to do better in Hartford,” Rodriguez noted, saying that it’s been difficult to connect with the households there because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Census Determines Connecticut Children’s Next 10 Years

With the pandemic keeping children at home, Merrill Gay of the CT Early Childhood Alliance said it’s now more necessary than ever to get kids counted.

“A child who’s three years old and doesn’t get counted doesn’t get another chance to get counted until they’re 13 [during the 2030 Census],” Gay said.

The Census Bureau estimates that 5% of children under the age of five weren’t counted in the 2010 Census, meaning about one million kids were not represented.

Liz Fraser, Policy Director for the Connecticut Association of Human Services, said Connecticut has not been immune to undercounting children in the Census and that the 2020 Census represents a chance to fix that.

“Every city in Connecticut has pockets where we have very, very hard-to-count areas for young children and they’re at high risk of being missed,” Fraser elaborated.

The 2020 Census will decide how much funding goes to services that children and their families benefit from such as school meals, Head Start, after-school programs and daycare.

As young kids are most likely to be missed, Eva Bunnell, senior partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau’s New York Region, said that people must take counting them seriously.