The Census Bureau said Monday that it would speed up its acquisition of data ahead of the end of September, when it says it will end all collection efforts nationwide.
In a statement, the Census Bureau said that it would accelerate efforts to collect data in person and through self-reporting efforts, both of which it said would now end on Sept. 30. Census officials said in the announcement that the administration planned to collect a similar amount of data as has been collected in previous censuses.
"We will end field data collection by September 30, 2020," reads the announcement. "Self-response options will also close on that date to permit the commencement of data processing. Under this plan, the Census Bureau intends to meet a similar level of household responses as collected in prior censuses, including outreach to hard-to-count communities."
The plan marks a two-month extension of the self-reporting period, which was initially intended to end on July 31. Some communities with low levels of internet access complete online census forms at far lower rates than more affluent communities, necessitating in-person data collection efforts as well. Those efforts have been made more difficult by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"We will improve the speed of our count without sacrificing completeness," the agency continued. "As part of our revised plan, we will conduct additional training sessions and provide awards to enumerators in recognition of those who maximize hours worked. We will also keep phone and tablet computer devices for enumeration in use for the maximum time possible."
Some employees of the bureau were skeptical that the plan would allow the agency to collect enough information in interviews with NPR, pointing to the possibility of some communities being undercounted. The census determines critical information about communities across the nation that is used at the federal level for funding purposes as well as for drawing up congressional maps.
"It's going to be impossible to complete the count in time," one Census Bureau employee told NPR. "I'm very fearful we're going to have a massive undercount."