Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and 18 Senate Democrats in urging the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Census Bureau to honor their previously announced 2020 Census completion date to ensure an accurate count for Indian Country and the Native Hawaiian community. The letter urges the Trump administration to reverse its decision to end the census collection period on September 30th instead of the previous deadline of October 31st.
“Response rates have been and remain low in Tribal communities in part because Tribal governments have taken extreme, but necessary, measures to keep their communities COVID-19 free,” wrote the Senators. “Accordingly, the accelerated timeline, combined with the low response rate and the widespread lack of internet access, threatens to result in another severe undercount of American Indians, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian 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.”
“We strongly urge you to honor the previously announced 2020 census completion date of October 31, 2020 and to continue operations under the modified timeline as detailed in the Bureau’s April 13th announcement,” the senators continued. “We look forward to working with you to uphold the federal government’s constitutional obligation to ensure a fair and accurate count for Indian Country and all Native populations within the United States.”
Full text of the letter can be found here.
Just last week, Senator Cortez Masto joined a bipartisan letter to House and Senate leaders calling for an extension of the statutory deadlines for the 2020 Census and urging that such an extension be included in any upcoming COVID-19 relief package.
In July, she joined Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) in cosponsoring the Fair and Accurate Census Act, legislation that would address the significant challenges facing the Census Bureau as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would also provide requested extensions of statutory deadlines and appropriate $400 million for the Census Bureau to address the impacts of the coronavirus on the 2020 Census.
Census response rates have been and remain low in Tribal communities in part because Tribal governments have taken necessary measures to keep their communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Tribal communities have experienced some of the highest mortality rates in the nation from the virus. The Bureau’s newly accelerated timeline threatens to result in another severe undercount of American Indians, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.