Tester Presses for Accurate 2020 Census Count for Indian Country

Urges Census Bureau to reverse decision to end Census collection period on September 30th instead of previous deadline of October 31st

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is pressing the Trump Administration to reverse its decision to end Census collection efforts a month earlier than previously planned and ensure an accurate 2020 Census count for Montana’s Native American communities.

In a letter with his colleagues, Tester wrote that failure to get a complete, accurate count will have long term negative impacts on Indian Country.

“…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,” wrote Tester and his colleagues. “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. A fair and accurate Census is critical to Native communities’ continued and future prosperity.”

On April 13, 2020, the Commerce Department and Census Bureau announced a modified timeline for 2020 Census operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which extended the deadline for field data collection to October 31, 2020. On August 3rd, the Bureau reneged on its April 13th announcement and indicated instead that it will cease all collection by September 30, 2020. Tester is pushing for Congress to delay the deadline in the next coronavirus package to make sure all Montanans are counted accurately by the 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. In 2010 the U.S. Census Bureau estimated nearly five percent of Native Americans living on reservations and in Alaska Native villages weren’t included in the final Census count.

“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,” Tester and his colleagues 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.”

Tester’s full letter is available HERE.