Abrupt census deadline may cost Michigan $300 million in federal funding, Congressional seats

Deadline to complete US Census now Oct. 15 following Supreme Court ruling

The deadline to complete the 2020 Census has been shifting back and forth due to the coronavirus pandemic and numerous court rulings.

The deadline to complete the 2020 Census has been shifting back and forth due to the coronavirus pandemic and numerous court rulings.

The U.S. Census Bureau initially extended the deadline for American households to respond to the census due to uncertainties caused by the pandemic. The extended deadline was later moved up, causing concern that not every U.S. household would be counted in the once-a-decade tally.

A lower court recently ruled that households had until the end of October to respond to the census, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration can end census field operations early. The last day for households to respond to the 2020 Census is now Thursday, October 15.

With census operations ending Thursday -- two weeks earlier than agreed -- Michigan is left in a difficult position. The state needs anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 households, not people, to get counted before the new deadline, or else it is at risk of losing funding and Congressional seats.

At Michigan’s current rate, the state stands to lose at least one of its 14 Congressional seats, if not more. The state will also lose out on as much as $30 million in federal funding per year for the next 10 years -- and that is money that residents have already paid for with their taxes.

Each Michigan resident counted in the census accounts for $3,000 in federal funding provided to the state. Some Michigan communities have done well, such as Livingston and Macomb counties, whose response rates are among the highest in the country.

However, federal funding for states are based on the entire state’s census response rate, not just the response from individual communities. Some Michigan communities, like Wayne County and the city of Detroit, have had lower response rates and have been difficult to count amid the pandemic.

States are essentially competing against one another for federal funding associated with the census. With low response rates, resources that would have otherwise been provided to Michigan will actually be sent to other states.

The 2020 Census is a 9-question survey designed to count the population across the country and five U.S. territories.

Every 10 years the U.S. census is conducted to identify city, county and state populations, which in turn determine how much federal funding each region receives for programs and services -- including for hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and other resources. The once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident also helps determine how many congressional seats each state gets in a process known as apportionment.

If you haven’t yet responded to this year’s census, you can:

Click here to learn more about the U.S. Census

Click here to see more national and state census response data

About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.