Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

The Census must adjust to coronavirus crisis — just like everything else

Apr 16, 2020
In The News

With the coronavirus forcing the nation to rethink everything from core economic policy to how we vote, it should be no surprise that Census procedures need revision, too.

Team Trump is asking Congress for a three-month delay in Census operations, which began April 1. With much of the country on lockdown and ordered not to let strangers in the house, it’s a pretty modest request.

Even with all Census operations postponed to June 1, the Commerce Department would aim to finish the count by Oct. 31 — well within the Constitution’s mandate of an enumeration of the population every 10 years.

Congress, when lawmakers go back into session, has a clear duty to OK the proposed statutory changes to the Census timeline. Some on the left will look at any delay as part of the president’s supposed desire to undercount in areas that lean against his agenda, but what’s the alternative here?

Yes, most Americans can fill out their Census forms online, while others drop the documents in the mail. But on-the-ground followup is essential: Progressives, in particular, insist on the need to strive to avoid any undercounts. But social-distancing rules make it near-impossible for Census workers to do physical followup.

The feds have managed to do the Census every decade through our nation’s 230-year history, even in times of war. The count is used to apportion House seats and allot some $1.5 trillion in federal aid to state and local governments.

Bronx Rep. José Serrano, chair of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Census, wants to ensure an accurate count of “hard-to-count” communities.

Getting that done means that, for once, Democrats need to cut the Trump administration some slack.