Mayor Jenny Durkan Leads Coalition of 40 Bipartisan Mayors Calling on Census Bureau to Extend Census Response Deadline Due to Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today sent a letter to the United States Census Bureau requesting that the Bureau extend the 2020 Census deadline from August 14, 2020 to September 30, 2020. The letter to the Census Bureau was co-led by Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, and Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose. In total, 40 bipartisan mayors from across the country signed onto the letter calling on the Census Bureau to extend the Census deadline.

From March 12-20, households received the first of several invitations to participate in the 2020 Census. This invitation included a unique ID code that can be used to complete the Census online. Seattle residents can go online today, with or without that code, and fill out their Census form at www.my2020census.gov.

The mayors’ letter says that the COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardized cities’ ability to secure a complete, safe, and accurate count of their population. With the mandated cessation of all large gatherings and the imposition of social distancing practices, cities and partner organizations, including the Census Bureau, have had to cancel meetings, workshops, community and neighborhood events, as well as a variety of door-to-door canvassing operations. You can read the full letter here.

“I urge all Seattle residents to fill out their Census forms – this is one of the most critical things we can do to ensure Seattle gets the resources we need. Seattle has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the last decade, and our 2020 Census count should reflect our new residents. But there’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened our ability to ensure a complete, safe, and accurate count, which means that every single resident, regardless of their background, could see a decrease in their voting power and political representation, a decrease in their hard-earned federal benefits, and a decrease in essential services that would change the shape of our communities for generations. Without equitable access to broadband, any refusal to extend this deadline will ensure an historic undercount in the Census, which I trust is neither the President’s nor the Census Bureau’s goal.” 

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan

“From the very beginning, New York City has been fighting COVID-19 with one hand tied behind our back. It is more important than ever for New Yorkers to participate in the 2020 Census to ensure we have the resources that are rightfully ours for the next decade,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I am calling on the Census Bureau to extend the census period so that all Americans can get counted without risking their health and safety.”

“Achieving a complete and accurate count in the upcoming 2020 Census is vital to Chicago’s future and those of other cities and towns across the nation. While Chicago continues to be fully committed to achieving this goal, the reality is that the unprecedented circumstances created by the COVID-19 crisis requires all of us adapt, starting with postponing the Census deadline until the end of September. This will allow our government agencies and countless local partners to conduct the critical outreach needed to ensure all our residents are represented and accounted for. Not doing so will waylay our ability to collect essential data on our national population, determine appropriate representation in Congress and secure essential funding for all of our communities,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

“San Jose is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, and we’re typically undercounted in Census efforts,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “We know the Census is so important, not just in determining political representation, but also in ensuring San Jose receives our fair share of federal funding for education, housing, and social services. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our ability to ensure a complete Count, and in San Jose, we believe that everyone counts. We hope that the Census Bureau agrees.” 

In 2019, the City of Seattle partnered with King County and Seattle Foundation to launch a $1.5 million Regional Census Fund to invest in local community-based organizations doing Census outreach and education, particularly to historically undercounted communities. Much of those outreach strategies rely on direct, face-to-face communication and interaction with residents to encourage participation in the Census and overcome barriers to participation that cause many communities to be historically undercounted.

In addition, 2020 is the first time that the decennial Census will be administered primarily online. Previously, residents would receive the Census questionnaire in the mail, fill it out by hand, and mail it back to the Bureau. This year, residents received a letter from the Census Bureau encouraging them to fill out the Census form online, though respondents can also request a paper version or fill out the form over the phone.

Data from the Pew Research Center shows that racial minorities, older adults, rural residents, and those with lower levels of education and income are less likely to have broadband service at home. Roughly three-in-ten adults with annual household incomes below $30,000 (29%) don’t own a smartphone. More than four-in-ten don’t have home broadband services (44%) or a traditional computer (46%). This underscores the potential for a significant undercount of historically marginalized groups if Census outreach can only be conducted digitally.

“Delaying the Census will ensure we are counting everybody. It is critically important to ensure a growing Seattle population receives federal resources to serve the needs of our residents,” said Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide). “It’s especially important to have more time to reach out to our communities of color as well as undocumented and immigrant communities, who are historically undercounted. We know the coronavirus crisis makes outreach more difficult, therefore it is imperative every community is receiving the message that the Census is important and counts everyone safely – regardless of status – to ensure our communities will receive the services funding we need for our schools, roads, nutrition and health care access, and more.”

“The Census is more important than ever, especially at a time when cities and states will need more federal resources due to the impacts of this pandemic,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide), and co-chair of the Seattle Census Task Force. “The federal government should delay the Census deadline, as there are competing priorities, and outreach is harder than ever during a pandemic. If we don’t delay, we are doing a disservice to our historically undercounted communities, who rely on community engagement and gathering places to receive information about the Census.”

“I urge the Census Bureau to extend the deadline in order to ensure that historically undercounted communities are completing the Census,” said Mahnaz Eshetu, Executive Director at ReWA and co-chair of the Seattle Census Task Force. “Due to the COVID 19 Pandemic and social distancing requirements, we had to cancel planned Census-related workshops and face-to-face direct assistance to underserved communities. We need more time to reach out and encourage all residents of our great city to respond.”

For the past two years, the City of Seattle has been working urgently with our partners to prepare for a complete, safe, and accurate 2020 Census. In the Mayor’s 2020 State of the City address, she announced new measures to prepare for the Census, including creating Census Assistance Centers at libraries and community centers throughout Seattle. These efforts have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ban on public gatherings, further underscoring the need to delay the 2020 Census.

In addition, the City has undertaken the following efforts to prepare for the 2020 Census:

  • Creating the Seattle Census Task Force to advise on City policy and outreach to historically undercounted communities;
  • Launching the first-ever Regional Census Fund with Seattle Foundation and King County to distribute $1.5 million to community-based organizations serving as trusted Census messengers;
  • Fighting the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant attempt to include a citizenship question on the Census;
  • Investing $150,000 in local ethnic-media outlets in partnership with the State of Washington to help reach out and build trust in community;
  • Continuing to work with community-based organizations and City departments to ensure people have all the information they need to fill out the Census; and
  • Activating the City’s Community Liaisons to provide a specific and targeted Census digital outreach strategy.

For more information on the City of Seattle’s efforts to ensure a complete, safe, and accurate 2020 Census count, visit www.seattlecensus.org. To fill out your 2020 Census form, visit my2020Census.gov.