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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

People wait in a long line to receive a food bank donation at the Barclays Center on May 15 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Across the country, cities and towns are dealing with the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression.

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People wait in a long line to receive a food bank donation at the Barclays Center on May 15 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Across the country, cities and towns are dealing with the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression.

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a hit in the paychecks of close to half of U.S. households, the Census Bureau says.

Since March 13, 47% of adults say they or another adult in their home have lost employment income, while 39% say they’re expecting their households to earn less from work over the next four weeks.

With the first of the month coming in less than two weeks, more than a fifth of adults report they have just slight or no confidence in their ability to make their next rent or mortgage payment on time.

The findings come from a new weekly survey the bureau rolled out last month to try to gauge how the outbreak is altering lives in the U.S.

More than two months into the pandemic, the first set of results of the Household Pulse Survey released Wednesday help illustrate how the coronavirus is taking a toll on people’s health as most of the country continues to shelter at home.

Over the last four weeks, close to 4 in 10 adults say they have waited to get medical care because of the pandemic.

The Census Bureau surveyed more than 74,000 households through online questionnaires between April 23 and May 5 for its first batch of findings. The bureau developed the questions for this $1.2 million experimental survey with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies.

The bureau, which is also conducting the ongoing 2020 census, says it’s planning to continue sending emails from COVID.survey@census.gov — as well as text messages from 39242 — with links to the Household Pulse Survey through mid-July.

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With No Citizenship Question, Trump Officials Turn To Records : NPR

A sign encourages newly sworn-in U.S. citizens to register to vote outside a naturalization ceremony in 2019 in Los Angeles. After failing to get the now-blocked citizenship question on the 2020 census, the Trump administration is continuing to gather government records to produce citizenship data for redistricting.

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A sign encourages newly sworn-in U.S. citizens to register to vote outside a naturalization ceremony in 2019 in Los Angeles. After failing to get the now-blocked citizenship question on the 2020 census, the Trump administration is continuing to gather government records to produce citizenship data for redistricting.

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You will not find a citizenship question on the 2020 census forms.

But in the months since federal courts permanently blocked the Trump administration from asking the hotly-contested question for this year’s national head count, the administration has been pushing ahead with a backup plan — amassing government records to try to determine the U.S. citizenship status of every adult living in the country.

Information from the U.S. Army, federal prisons and the Department of the Interior’s law enforcement system are among the newly disclosed batch of records the Census Bureau says it is using to comply with President Trump’s executive order for citizenship data, according to a memo the bureau quietly posted on its website earlier this month.

Previously released government documents have confirmed the bureau is also compiling IRS tax forms and data from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as records from the Department of Homeland Security, Social Security Administration, and State Department. The bureau has also asked states to share their driver’s license records, and in November, Nebraska’s Department of Motor Vehicles signed an agreement to turn over monthly data about license and ID card holders’ citizenship status, names, addresses, dates of birth, sex, race and eye color.

Put together, these records could be used to yield data that could radically change political mapmaking and shift the balance of political power across the U.S. over the next decade.

Instead of drawing voting districts based on the number of overall residents in an area, the citizenship data the Trump administration wants created — detailed down to the level of a census block — may allow mapmakers to redistrict using the number of citizens old enough to vote. A GOP strategist concluded that excluding U.S. citizens under the age of 18 and noncitizens, both those lawfully and unlawfully in the country, from the numbers used to remake political maps would be “advantageous to Republicans & Non-Hispanic Whites.”

That method of redistricting was one of the main uses of the data outlined in Trump’s executive order, which also noted that the information could help the government “generate a more reliable count of the unauthorized alien population in the country.”

Last year, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced in the White House Rose Garden that the citizenship data “may be relevant” in an ongoing federal lawsuit the state of Alabama and Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from that state, has filed against the Census Bureau to get unauthorized immigrants excluded from the 2020 census numbers used to redistribute congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states.

The coronavirus outbreak and the changes it’s forced upon the bureau’s 2020 census plans have interrupted the agency’s work on the citizenship data. Last month, the bureau said in a regulatory document that it plans to announce its final plans for citizenship data by Oct. 31.

The pandemic-related delays have led the bureau to ask Congress to push back by four months the legal deadlines for delivering the results of the 2020 census, including redistricting data the bureau now would like to provide to the states by the end of July 2021.

If a new law is passed that allows for that extension, the bureau is also expecting to release the citizenship data as ordered by Trump by July 31, 2021, James Whitehorne, the head of the Census Bureau’s redistricting and voting rights data office, told redistricting officials last month during a webinar organized by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The House Democrats’ new coronavirus relief bill does allow for a deadline extension for redistricting data from the 2020 census. But the bill — which is not expected to get support from the Republican-controlled Senate — also includes a provision that would stop the efforts to create the citizenship data requested by the Trump administration.

Asked how the more recently disclosed sources of records are helping the Census Bureau’s researchers develop citizenship data, the bureau’s public information office directed NPR to slides the agency’s officials presented last year that said they help researchers link records about the same individual and determine whether that person is a U.S. citizen.

The Census Bureau is obtaining these records through sharing agreements negotiated with the other agencies, and the bureau has said the records are “stripped of any personal identifiable information and are used for statistical purposes only.”

“They cannot be shared in identifiable form with any other government agency or the public,” the bureau emphasized in a technical document on its webpage about the citizenship data.

Still, Latinx community groups in Arizona and Texas represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC are trying to stop the release of the citizenship data with a federal lawsuit against the administration. The challengers contend the production of the data is part of a conspiracy to prevent Latinos, noncitizens and other immigrants from receiving fair political representation.

In response to the Census Bureau’s announcement last month about delaying its field operations for the 2020 census, Thomas Saenz, MALDEF’s president and general counsel, called continued work on citizenship data a “dangerous diversion from the necessity of concentrating on Census 2020 in the Bureau and from accomplishing pandemic recovery efforts in other federal and state agencies.”

Amy O’Hara, who previously led the Census Bureau’s Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications, has also warned about the dangers of directing limited resources during the pandemic to creating more detailed citizen voting age population data, also known as CVAP.

“The sources for CVAP are mostly new to the Census Bureau, requiring more effort to understand the files and how to appropriately link it with other data,” O’Hara, who is now a research professor at Georgetown University’s Massive Data Institute, says in an email. “This competes with staff time for planned uses of administrative data, and with emerging needs during the pandemic, like correctly counting college students.”

Still, the citizenship data could be useful to at least one state.

Missouri state lawmakers approved a resolution last week that includes a ballot initiative that would require the state’s house and senate districts to be drawn “on the basis of one person, one vote.”

Critics of the proposed constitutional amendment worry that it could lead to redistricting based on the number of citizens old enough to vote rather than of all residents, including children.

“The Supreme Court held in 2016 that it is constitutional to draw districts on the basis of total population, so that every district has the same number of people,” explains Michael Li, a redistricting expert who is a senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, in an email. “But the court left open the question of whether it might also be constitutional to use another population basis, such as eligible voters. That open question could be one of the big fights of this decade.”



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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

Delia Vicente peeks out of the doorway of her house in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in April. The Census Bureau says its workers on the island are getting ready to resume leaving paper forms for the 2020 census outside of front doors.

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Delia Vicente peeks out of the doorway of her house in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in April. The Census Bureau says its workers on the island are getting ready to resume leaving paper forms for the 2020 census outside of front doors.

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More than two months after the national roll-out of the 2020 census, most households in Puerto Rico are set to finally receive official instructions on how to participate in the count starting next week, the Census Bureau announced Friday.

The coronavirus outbreak forced census field operations on the island to stop in March, but census workers are now scheduled to resume leaving paper forms outside of front doors beginning May 22. The bureau says it’s providing personal protective equipment to its employees, who are expected to follow all of the island’s lockdown and curfew requirements in addition to social distancing protocols.

The bureau also announced on Friday that it’s sending out workers as early as next week to drop off questionnaires in more stateside rural communities, including in parts of Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

The two-month suspension of census field operations in these areas has led to low self-response rates, raising concerns about undercounts that could have devastating long-term implications on the share of the estimated $1.5 trillion a year in federal funding communities receive based in part on their population counts from the once-a-decade census.

With the national self-response rate pushing past 59% as of Thursday, Puerto Rico is trailing behind by more than 51 percentage points, at just over 8%.

Under the island’s stay-at-home orders, most of Puerto Rico’s residents have been left out of the barrage of census mailers many stateside communities have seen since March.

Two years ago, the Census Bureau decided that hand-delivering questionnaires, instead of mailing them, would be the most reliable way to conduct the head count in Puerto Rico as the island continues to recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria.

While census work returns to Puerto Rico and a growing list of rural areas in the states, some of the country’s most vulnerable populations continue to face uncertainty about how they will be included in the census. As of Friday, the bureau has not released new plans for counting people experiencing homelessness, or for leaving forms outside of homes in some American Indian tribal territories. The bureau has said it suspended those operations to protect the health and safety of its workers and the public.

“We made the move knowing we could still achieve a complete and accurate count — and are working closely with tribal leaders to determine the right time to resume this important operation,” the bureau said in a statement Friday.

The bureau tells NPR in an email that it is trying to reach more historically undercounted groups by buying print, search and other digital ads about the census in 33 additional languages, including Bengali, Farsi, Hindi, Navajo and Nepali.

Still, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released on Wednesday warned that social distancing requirements could undermine efforts to accurately count groups caught in the digital divide, especially when door knockers are expected to start visiting unresponsive homes in August to try to complete the count.

“Groups with less internet access will be at relatively greater risk of being missed by the census,” the GAO report said, if the challenge of maintaining a safe distance from a doorway in apartment buildings or other densely populated spaces reduces the number of households census workers can interview in person.



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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

In their new COVID-19 relief bill, House Democrats have proposed extending major legal deadlines for delivering 2020 census results as requested by the U.S. Census Bureau because of the pandemic.

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In their new COVID-19 relief bill, House Democrats have proposed extending major legal deadlines for delivering 2020 census results as requested by the U.S. Census Bureau because of the pandemic.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As the U.S. Census Bureau resumes some 2020 census field operations put on hold by the pandemic, House Democrats are moving forward with proposals for major changes to the national head count as requested by the bureau.

The coronavirus relief bill released Tuesday includes provisions that would push back by four months the legal deadlines for the bureau to deliver 2020 census results — including the latest state population counts used to redistribute congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states, and the data used to redraw voting districts.

If passed, the legislation would also boost the emergency budget for the census by $400 million.

But the bill, known as the Heroes Act, is not expected to gain traction in the Republican-led Senate.

It does offer some insight into the House Democrats’ wish list for the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the country.

The bill includes a provision that would block the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to use government records to produce data about the U.S. citizenship status of every person living in the country, as well as requiring Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham to provide a monthly report about the count’s progress to lawmakers.

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More Rural Communities To Have Paper Forms Hand-Delivered : Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

The Census Bureau says it will continue its relaunch of limited field operations for the 2020 census next week in some rural communities in nine states.

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The Census Bureau says it will continue its relaunch of limited field operations for the 2020 census next week in some rural communities in nine states.

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The Census Bureau says it is continuing the gradual relaunch of limited field operations for the 2020 census next week in nine states where the coronavirus pandemic forced the hand-delivery of paper forms in rural areas to be suspended in mid-March.

On May 13, some local census offices in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington are scheduled to restart that fieldwork, according to an updated schedule the bureau published on its website Friday.

All workers are expected to be trained in CDC guidance in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and besides a new reusable face mask for every 10 days worked and a pair of gloves for each work day, the bureau has ordered 2 ounces of hand sanitizer for each census worker conducting field operations, the bureau tells NPR in an email.

The announcement means more households that receive their mail at post office boxes or drop points are expected to find paper questionnaires left outside their front doors soon. In areas where access to the online census form at my2020census.gov can be spotty, paper forms help ensure that all homes can participate in the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident.

The results are used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets through 2030. They also guide the redrawing of voting districts and the distribution of an estimated $1.5 trillion a year in federal funding for schools, roads and other public services in local communities.

The Census Bureau also announced on Friday that fingerprinting for newly hired census workers will pick up again next week in and around Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Pittsburgh. With responses from close to 86 million households bringing the national self-response rate to just over 58% as of Thursday, the federal government is relying on staffing up with enough door knockers to complete the count. They’re currently scheduled to make in-person visits to unresponsive homes starting in August.

Last month, Census Bureau officials asked Congress to consider pushing back the legal deadlines for delivering census data used to reapportion House seats and reshape voting maps by four months because of the delays brought on by the coronavirus.

In a letter to U.S. Senate leaders released on Friday, more than a dozen Democratic senators led by Brian Schatz of Hawaii are calling for the next COVID-19 relief package to include more funding and requirements for the Census Bureau “to keep both field workers and the public safe while conducting this constitutionally required enumeration.”



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Restarting Field Ops, Hiring After Coronavirus Measures : Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

After suspending 2020 census field operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau says it’s restarting the hand-delivery of paper forms in rural communities and the hiring of door knockers in some parts of 13 states.

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After suspending 2020 census field operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau says it’s restarting the hand-delivery of paper forms in rural communities and the hiring of door knockers in some parts of 13 states.

Ted S. Warren/AP

Updated at 8:56 p.m. ET

Some workers for the 2020 census are heading back to rural communities this week in more than a dozen states as part of a phased-in restart of field operations for the national head count that were suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Certain local census offices in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia are resuming operations this week, the Census Bureau announced Monday.

Workers there are set to undergo safety training and receive personal protective equipment, the bureau said, before they’re sent out to hand-deliver paper census forms in areas where most homes receive mail at post office boxes or drop points.

“The Update Leave operation does not require interaction between households and a Census Bureau employee and follows the most current federal health and safety guidelines,” the bureau’s press release said.

Asked by NPR what specific “social distancing protocols” census workers will have to follow, the Census Bureau says in an email that it’s relying on CDC guidance, including standing six feet away from another person.

In addition to ordering disinfectant wipes for its local offices, the bureau tells NPR it is preparing to provide each employee a new reusable face mask for every 10 days worked and a pair of gloves each work day. Employees conducting field operations will also receive hand sanitizer.

The bureau is also preparing to resume fingerprinting for newly hired door knockers, who are currently set to visit homes that haven’t yet participated in the count, starting in August.

Monday’s announcement comes after Census Bureau officials informed the House Oversight and Reform Committee late last month of its plans to switch from a nationwide relaunch of field operations on June 1 to a restart in waves based on public health guidance and the availability of protective equipment.

Despite the pause, the bureau has continued collecting responses from households across the country for the once-a-decade, constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the country. As of Sunday, close to 84 million households have participated — most of them online at my2020census.gov — putting the national self-response rate at more than 56%.

At least a decade’s worth of consequences in political power and federal funding come with the count’s results. They are used to help determine each state’s share of an estimated $1.5 trillion a year that are distributed for Medicare, Medicaid and other public services.

The latest population counts from the census are also used to redraw voting districts and redistribute the number of congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states.

Because the pandemic has wreaked havoc on its schedule for the 2020 census, the bureau has proposed pushing back the legal deadlines to deliver new state population counts to the president for reapportioning Congress and to provide to the states redistricting data — including information derived from government records on the U.S. citizenship status of every person living in the country as requested by the Trump administration.

Delaying those deadlines would upend redistricting plans in many states. Still, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chair of the House oversight committee, has voiced support for the bureau’s request for four-month extensions, which Maloney suggested could be included in an upcoming bill or the next COVID-19 relief package.

“We have to adjust to the times,” Maloney said during a press conference last week.

All of the interruptions to 2020 census plans — which are costing the bureau $1.5 billion of its $2 billion emergency budget — have heightened concerns that historically undercounted groups, including rural residents and people of color, will not be accurately represented in data that policymakers, business leaders and researchers rely on for demographic insight into the U.S. population.

As of Monday, the bureau has not announced any revised plans for counting people who are experiencing homelessness, going door to door for in-person counting in some American Indian tribal territories or hand-delivering paper forms in Puerto Rico, where the latest self-response rate trails behind those of the states at 7.6%.



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