GAO report says cutting census timeframe is a threat to its accuracy

GAO report says cutting census timeframe is a threat to its accuracy
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A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published Thursday found that cutting the time frame in which the 2020 census is conducted could increase the risk for an inaccurate count. 

Among other things, the GAO found the shortened survey period announced earlier this month by the Trump administration puts more pressure on the IT systems door knockers rely on and cuts down the time available to test the response processing operation.

“These delays, the resulting compressed timeframes, implementation of untested procedures, and additional challenges such as COVID-19 could adversely impact downstream operations, escalate census costs and undermine the overall quality of the count,” the report said.


The GAO recommended that the Census Bureau hire more workers to follow up on inquiries and invest in safety protocols so workers can continue in-person outreach strategies. 

As of Aug. 10, the Bureau had received responses from 63.4 percent of households and plans to hire up to 435,000 enumerators to follow up with the approximately 56.4 million nonresponding households, according to the GAO.

By Aug. 27, the completion rate was 79.2 percent, a Census spokesperson told The Hill Friday. 

“We appreciate GAO's on-going efforts to keep Congress and other stakeholders aware of these matters, and we reaffirm our commitment to providing a timely and accurate enumeration,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration decided to curtail the census's enumeration period from the end of October to Sept. 30 due to statutory constraints during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some lawmakers have proposed an extension of the statutory deadlines for the 2020 census in the next coronavirus relief package.


The census count determines federal funding for states and the makeup of House districts.

In July, President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE issued an order seeking to block undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 census for the purpose of allocating congressional representation, though that measure was met with swift legal challenges.

Updated  Aug. 28, 1:27 p.m.