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Congress questions whether Census Bureau ready for the 2020 count

WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers criticized Census officials Wednesday saying with only weeks until the 2020 count is fully underway the bureau’s preparations are “woefully inadequate” to accurately track the nation’s population.

“There are grave challenges facing this year’s Census and, to be honest, I don’t have full confidence that the administration is equipped to handle them,’’ said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

The committee held a hearing focusing on a new Government Accountability Office report that cited challenges facing the Census Bureau, including hiring enough workers, partnering with enough community groups and protecting its computer systems from hacking.

“Without timely and appropriate actions, the challenges … could adversely affect the cost, accuracy, schedule and security of the enumeration,” the report concluded.

Census officials defended their readiness noting among other goals, a plan to hire as many as 500,000 people who will go door to door to count people who haven’t responded to the questionnaire.  As of Wednesday, the bureau had 2.3 million completed applications, officials said.

“We’re way ahead of what’s needed,” Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham told lawmakers. “We are on mission, on target ad on budget…We are not behind.”

But Maloney said the GAO report seems to be sending “flashing red lights.”

“We have to respond to these red flags,” she said at the end of the three-hour hearing.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said she's concerned the Census Bureau is not as ready as it should be for the 2020 count. Her committee held a hearing Wednesday.

Plans for the nationwide count have been underway for years. The population survey is key to apportioning Congressional districts and determining the distribution of billions in federal funds for schools, infrastructure and health systems.

Civil rights groups have raised concerns about whether the Census Bureau has been properly funded and whether it has enough staff to accurately count people, particularly historically hard-to-count minority communities.

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