Despite a court order from federal judge Lucy Koh extending the deadline to fill out the U.S. Census to Oct. 31, the U.S. Census Bureau tweeted Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’s announcment of a new deadline of Oct. 5. — just four days away. 

The new deadline in the Monday tweet is the latest move in an ongoing legal battle around the  census, and it may not hold up in court. The Trump administration filed an appeal of Koh’s order on Sept. 25 to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Every decade, the census gathers biographic and economic information about every individual in the country. This data determines the distribution of about $1.5 trillion in federal dollars that goes to schools, hospitals, public infrastructure, and more, as well as districting and apportionment of seats for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Typically, the census deadline is July 31, but due to COVID-19 the Census Bureau set a new deadline of Oct. 31. The legal battle began when the Bureau announced on Aug. 3 that the deadline was being moved up to Sept. 30. Koh’s order, issued Sep. 24, challenged the Sept. 30 deadline and pushed it to Oct. 31, citing concerns of an undercount.

“An inaccurate count would not be remedied for another decade, which would affect the distribution of federal and state funding, the deployment of services, and the allocation of local resources for a decade,” Koh said in a Sept. 24 court order. 

Illustration by Ryan Tran.

Two-thirds of U.S. households filled out the census over the past seven months, leaving 33.5 percent of the country uncovered. Those left uncounted are likely from hard-to-count communities, including poor communities, communities of color, and unhoused individuals. Koh’s order gives more time to reach hard-to-count communities, and specifically cited the need for more time in Los Angeles, the second most populated city in the country. If not fully counted, the city will be underfunded for the next 10 years. 

California has a response rate of 69 percent, and Santa Cruz County has a rate of 71 percent. Joseph Watkins, assistant project director for the 2020 Census Project in Santa Cruz, mentioned reasons for reaching out and spreading information to the local community about the form. 

“We want to make sure as much money and systems come back to our county as possible,” Watkins said in a May interview with City on a Hill Press. “Especially given this recent crisis, we could use all the federal support we can get for the next 10 years to rebuild Santa Cruz, assist public health, assist the building of businesses, or trying to create new jobs.”

An undercount in Santa Cruz would affect the funding of demanded services in schools like special education, after-school programs and low-priced school lunches. To learn more about the repercussions that Santa Cruz would face from an undercount, watch CHPNow’s video, “2020 Census Underway” from winter 2020.

*Additional reporting by Kora Fortun.