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Census Bureau aims to deliver state population totals by April 30

Data collection and processing for the 2020 Census were delayed by the pandemic, litigation, and the discovery of anomalies in the data.

A census taker carries a briefcase as she knocks on the door of in Winter Park, Fla., in August (John Raoux/AP)

Census Bureau officials said Wednesday that the agency hopes to deliver state population totals to the commerce secretary by April 30, the original date the bureau set after the count was delayed because of the coronavirus.

The latest update to the Bureau’s timeline comes after a months-long battle over President Donald Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from state population data, which is used to calculate how many House seats each state gets for the next 10 years. That effort effectively ended earlier this month when U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh approved a three-week stay on the release of state population totals, pushing it back until after Trump left office.

Wynn Coggins is the acting head of the Commerce Department, but President Biden has tapped Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) as his nominee to lead the agency. If confirmed, she will receive the state population counts and deliver the numbers to the president. At her confirmation hearing Tuesday, she said in her first public comments on the census that she planned to rely on the expertise of Census Bureau staff members and would allow more time for processing if they deemed it necessary.

“I commit to taking the politics out of the census, relying on expertise and doing everything I can to rebuild people’s trust in the census. It needs to be accurate,” she said.

The 2020 Census will be used to determine the distribution of $1.5 trillion a year in federal funding and congressional redistricting for the next 10 years.

The secretary will receive state population totals and apportionment results at the same time, a Census Bureau spokesperson said. In the original plan for the 2020 Census, redistricting data was supposed to be released several months after that. But the new timeline for redistricting data is not clear. “We hope to have a date in the near future that we can provide for when the redistricting data will come out," said Kathleen Styles, chief of decennial communication and stakeholder relations.

The statutory deadline for delivering state population totals to the president was Dec. 31, but the bureau was not able to meet it. The census faced a series of roadblocks: data collection delays due to the pandemic, litigation over the timing of data collection and processing, and the discovery of anomalies in the data. Processing normally takes five months post-collection, and April 30 would be slightly longer than five months since the count ended in mid-October.

“The new date for releasing the first 2020 Census data clearly suggests that the Census Bureau’s expert career staff are calling the shots and intend to take sufficient time to fix mistakes in the raw counts that would reduce accuracy,” said Terri Ann Lowenthal, former staff director of the House census oversight subcommittee.

Tara Bahrampour contributed to this report.

More on the census

Here’s how America’s racial makeup has changed over the past decade. You can drill down by address to see how certain areas have shifted.