Lansdale Reporter: Montgomery County backs Oct. 31 Census deadline
by Rachel Ravina
September 4, 2020
NORRISTOWN — In an effort to extend participation efforts of the 2020 U.S. Census, Montgomery County leaders want the federal government to extend the deadline by another month.
“Moving the COVID-19 census response deadline from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30 will put Montgomery County at great risk of losing tens of millions of dollars in funding for our most critical programs and services,” Montgomery County Board of Commissioners’ Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh said in a statement.
Specifically, $72 million per year for 10 years in federal funding could be lost to local programming if “just 5 percent of Montgomery County households don’t participate in the census,” according to Arkoosh.
These figures were referenced in an amicus brief that was filed in a lawsuit against the U.S. Commerce Department to reinstate the census’ initial Oct. 31 deadline. Montgomery County officials endorsed the brief, which was written in Santa Clara County, Calif.
In the hopes of rectifying the count timeline, that lawsuit was filed on Aug. 31 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the National Urban League and the League of Women Voters, according to Arkoosh, who added that “jurisdictions representing 25 million Americans” in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Locally, Bucks and Delaware counties have joined the litigation, Arkoosh said.
The brief aimed to underscore how the shortened census deadline would “undermine the census” by “substantially exacerbat[ing] the problem of more individuals from hard-to-count groups going uncounted” and compromis[ing] the quality of census data produced about local populations.”
“Nationally and locally, response rates have been lower in census tracts with larger shares of Hispanic residents or those with more people living in poverty, two groups that will be disproportionately impacted by an undercount,” Arkoosh said.
According to Arkoosh, the state’s third-largest county had a 76.3-percent response rate as of this week, which is more than a percent higher than the previous decade’s participation of 75 percent.
However, two municipalities under the county’s umbrella that could benefit from the bureau's distribution of federal funds are falling behind.
For instance, Norristown had a 51.2-percent response rate as of Aug. 24, while Pottstown garnered a 65.2-percent response rate.
In addition to dollars, inadequate population numbers could have an impact on the area’s representation at the state and federal level.
Arkoosh stressed the importance of participation is all the more important during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and global public health crisis.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced how financially fragile so many of these critical programs are, as well as how essential these programs are to the vulnerable communities that they serve,” she said.
Arkoosh urged area residents who hadn’t completed their 2020 U.S. Census forms to do so.
Paperwork can be submitted online at 2020census.gov, by calling 844-330-2020 toll-free or by sending the form to the U.S. Census Bureau, National Processing Center, 100 Logistics Ave., Jefferson, IN 47144.