Court challenge over census deadline could have big implications for Minnesota

The deadline for the U.S. Census could be restored to the end of October, instead of the end of September.

At stake for Minnesota are $15 billion in federal funds and the potential loss of a congressional seat.

“We’ve got to make sure we count everybody,” said Minneapolis City Council Vice-President Andrea Jenkins. “These communities need and deserve the resources that a full count in our census can bring to these communities.”

A federal judge in California has issued a temporary restraining order stopping the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department from winding down until a Sept. 17 court hearing.

The White House had ordered the deadline be moved up a month over the summer.

Now, Minnesota officials are scrambling to get people counted — and get communities involved.

“The census is the most inclusive activity that is undertaken,” says Irene Fernando, the chair of the Hennepin County Complete Count Census Committee. “We know that historically undercounted communities include immigrants, as well as Black communities and other people of color.”

The Census Bureau says Congress wouldn’t take action on a plan to delay turning in apportionment numbers until next spring.

Those figures determine representation in Congress.

The bureau says to get the job done by December, it will need census data by the end of the month.

The federal dollars would help communities damaged by the riots and financially hit by the pandemic.

"Resources that fund after school programs, resources that fund health centers, resources that fund technological centers in these communities,” Jenkins says.

The government says about 85% of Minnesota households have completed the census.

"No one has been to my door to ask me to complete the census,” says Monica Hurtado with the group Voices for Racial Justice.

Hurtado says she’s learned about how crucial a correct count can be in securing federal dollars for her north Minneapolis neighborhood.

"In the 2010 census, 7,000 less people were counted than in 2000,” she said. “As a result, my neighborhood lost millions of dollars in funding over the past decade."

And then there’s the pandemic effect.

The process of counting people, allocating federal money, along with population numbers determining congressional representation— all delayed months because of COVID-19 concerns.

"The pandemic has really impacted that, the outdoor census takers got pushed back a little bit this year,” Jenkins said.

And that September versus October counting deadline?

Minneapolis City Council members say the additional 30 days will be crucial in getting people counted.

They fear an undercount could severely reduce funding in areas where that money is urgently needed.

“Minnesota is at risk if we don’t get a full census count, of potentially losing one of our congressional seats,” Jenkins said.