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Cuyahoga County Officials Disappointed After Census Ends Two Weeks Early

a photo of a census envelope
Anna Hoychuk
The deadline for the 2020 U.S. Census has changed multiple times over the course of the year.

The U.S. Census will end at 6 a.m. Friday, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump Administration’s efforts to halt the count. Local workers say stopping the process now will hurt the communities that still have low response rates.
The 2020 Census has faced numerous hurdles since it launched, said Cuyahoga County Director of Regional Collaboration Michele Pomerantz.
“This is a continued pattern,” Pomerantz said. “It’s an unprecedented attack on the census that started way back when, when the President wanted to add citizenship questions.”

The latest decision feels final, she said, and now local efforts will start to shift from counting households to preparing for what comes next.

“To help secure and ensure that the 2030 Census has at least this much information about what crazy path this could take to help prepare them to do what is needed to get an accurate count,” Pomerantz said. “Those undercounted communities, how do we advocate to make sure they aren’t left behind?”

The census helps to determine what federal resources a community is eligible for, Pomerantz said, and an inaccurate count hurts the communities who need the most help.

“There really is a question going forward on how accurate this census is in determining congressional seats and determining federal dollars,” Pomerantz said.
The deadline for the count has shifted numerous times since numerators began their work earlier this year. County officials have rearranged plans and schedules to accommodate those changes, Pomerantz said, as well as to inform community leaders and partners who were aiding in the effort.

That includes communicating the need for one last push ahead of the Friday deadline, she said.

“We’re continuing to try to accurately give as much information as we can, but to continue to focus on the count and not all the other noise,” Pomerantz said.

The SCOTUS decision this week led to layoffs for many census workers, Pomerantz said, resulting in low staffing levels that are impacting their ability to get the last of the work done.

“We’ve reached out to talk to our census partners, and it’s hard to get ahold of them because many of them have already been laid off and they’re scrambling as well,” Pomerantz said. “Even as of last week, before the Supreme Court intervened, it was really a skeleton crew.”

Cuyahoga County is ahead of its 2010 census response rate on, with about 67 percent responding, Pomerantz said. But more time would improve those results, she said, especially in areas that are lagging behind.

“We’re proud of our efforts, trying to zig and zag when we were given different kinds of lemons and making lemonade wherever we could,” Pomerantz said. “But at the end of the day, due to the chaos and the pandemic and the unprecedented world. I’m a former school teacher, 70 percent is not good enough.”
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