Florida’s congressional delegation raises concerns about census count during coronavirus outbreak

Efforts to social distance could make the census count complicated.

Three Florida congressional members are signing onto a letter requesting additional steps be taken to ensure an accurate census count while the country deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The accuracy of decennial census data is dependent upon participation by the population at large. That data on state and local populations can often affect the flow of federal funds.

But calls to social distance could make that data collection complicated.

U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Darren Soto have joined a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham noting concerns about a possible undercount.

“We understand that the Census Bureau is actively monitoring the situation in order to adapt operations to ensure a complete and accurate count,” the lawmakers wrote.

“As you develop contingency plans, we urge you to consider how historically marginalized communities, people experiencing homelessness, and communities with low broadband access will be reached. “

A total of 38 House members signed onto the letter. The lawmakers also note the increasing limiting of public interaction, arguing that Ross and Dillingham need to do more to work around that new reality.

“It may seem simple to encourage everyone to respond online. However, this method is not an option for thousands of people,” the letter reads.

“While we appreciate your work to build a robust online infrastructure, simply pointing people to the online form is insufficient. We urge you to consider alternative options including but not limited to: extending the enumeration period for nonresponse follow up and for people experiencing homelessness. We believe these steps are necessary to protect public health while ensuring a complete and accurate count.

The members of Congress then ask for further updates regarding the federal government’s plans. Some outstanding issues include how officials will reach those isolated due to the COVID-19 virus, as well as safety precautions for census workers.

Mucarsel-Powell added a statement of her own Wednesday where she reemphasized the importance of a robust contingency plan.

“Florida continues to be one of the states most likely to be undercounted during the 2020 census, jeopardizing our community’s ability to be accurately and effectively represented,” Mucarsel-Powell said.

“We must take appropriate steps to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on this important constitutional process.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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