Iowans have through Thursday to complete the 2020 Census

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Iowans can respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Iowans who have not completed the 2020 census have limited time to submit their responses to ensure they’re counted.

The Supreme Court approved a request on Tuesday that allows the Trump administration to move forward with ending the census earlier than planned. The new deadline is Thursday, Oct. 15, at 11:59 p.m. Hawaii time. (For Iowans, this is 4:59 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 16.)

The Supreme Court blocked an order from a federal district judge in California that required the government to continue counting efforts through the end of October. Judge Lucy Koh issued a preliminary injunction in mid-September preventing the Trump administration from stopping the census count at the end of September.

The Census Bureau announced in July it would extend the response deadline to Oct. 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bureau reversed course in August and announced it was ending counting efforts on Sept. 30. Koh said the Commerce Department had “never articulated a satisfactory explanation” for its decision to end the census early, according to the New York Times.

The Supreme Court’s order pauses the population count, but “it almost certainly ensures an early end because the census … cannot be easily restarted,” according to reporting from the New York Times.

The justices did not explain the order, which is typical for emergency applications. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only justice to dissent.

“The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable. And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years,” Sotomayor wrote in her seven-page dissent.

There is more than $675 billion in federal funds divided between the states each year, which is then spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other programs. A study done by George Washington University calculated that in fiscal year 2016, Iowa received $8.79 billion through 55 federal spending programs that were guided by 2010 census data.

“In the state of Iowa, almost all of our funding is based on that population, so it’s important to get it right,” Gary Krob, coordinator of the State Data Center in Iowa, said during an Iowa 2020 Census Complete Count Committee meeting on Feb. 6.

An undercount of 1 percent could cost Iowa $38.6 million, a George Washington University study found. For every person not counted, Iowa loses $1,268.

As of Wednesday, Iowa’s self-response rate was 71.4 percent. A little more than half of the Iowans who responded did so by filling out the census online. This is the first census done primarily online but respondents also have the option to respond by phone or by mail.

Internet self-response will be available through the new deadline, and paper responses must be postmarked by Thursday. Individuals who want to respond by phone can still do so and there is a schedule for when customer service representatives are available.


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Nonresponse follow-up census takers will continue their work through the end of day on Thursday.

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