COLUMBUS — A coalition of advocacy groups wants Ohio's senators to get behind efforts to extend the 2020 Census deadline by four months.
Oct. 31 was set as the counting deadline, but the Census Bureau recently announced the date was moved ahead to Sep. 30. The Trump administration said the change was needed to deliver final numbers to Congress by its Dec. 31 deadline.
Katherine Ungar is a policy associate with the Children's Defense Fund — Ohio, which is part of the Ohio Census Advocacy Coalition. She said outreach groups need more time to ensure full participation.
"The process for an accurate 2020 census has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bureau's decision to cut short by a month census nonresponse follow-up and self-reporting will deprive people in our state from being counted and reflected in the portrait of Ohio," Ungar said.
The coalition is urging the U.S. Senate to extend the statutory reporting deadlines for the count by four months in the next COVID relief package.
Meanwhile, a federal court hearing will be held Friday in California challenging the deadline change. A recently leaked internal Census Bureau document revealed concerns that the shortened count timeline would increase the risk of serious errors.
Ohio received roughly $56 billion in 2017 in federal funds tied to census data. Ungar said the financial impact of an undercount could be catastrophic to transportation funding, community development and programs that protect children such as Medicaid and Head Start.
"And at a time during COVID when Ohio already is at risk of having a $2.4 billion shortfall in state funding, we should really be doing everything we can to make secure our fair share of the federal resources," she said.Ohio's total response rate is currently about 94 percent, slightly higher than the national rate of enumerated households. Ungar said for every person in Ohio who is not counted, up to $1,700 in federal funding is left on the table.