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November 26, 2020
Mass. Funders Oppose Plan to Cut Short 2020 Census Count
Census 2020

August 7, 2020 — Fourteen Massachusetts grant makers this week joined more than 500 others across the nation in opposing plans by the federal government to cut short the time for collecting data for the national census, a move that could potentially cost Bay State nonprofits millions of dollars.

The Census Bureau on Monday said the count will end Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31, noting that the change was needed to meet a federal deadline to get the numbers to President Trump by the end of the year. However, in April, the pandemic led census officials to push back the deadline for delivering a final count to April 2021 deadline.

“Rushing the census…would hurt a diverse range of rural and urban communities, leaving them underrepresented locally and in Congress and cutting their fair share of federal funding for Medicaid, economic development, child care, schools, road and public transit improvements, home heating assistance for senior citizens, and many more vital services,” read the letter, made public Wednesday, addressed to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham

The philanthropic leaders who signed the letter share the belief that the additional month is needed to complete the count; nearly four in 10 households were still yet to be counted as August began.

According to the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund (MCEF), a Boston-based donor collaborative of funders and nonprofits working to ensure a complete count in the 2020 census, the state loses $2,372 in federal funding for every one person that's not counted on the Census.

"Collectively, many of our institutions have invested more than $100 million in rural and urban communities across the country in support of the Census Bureau’s efforts to educate and persuade households about the importance of participating in the 2020 Census," the letter continued, adding, "The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the Census Bureau to recruit, train, and retain enumerators, and is still preventing in-person contact in many areas."

Gary D. Bass, executive director of the Bauman Foundation and chair of a national philanthropic collaborative to promote a fair and accurate census, said, "The bottom line is that shortening the census in the face of national public health and economic crises will result in inaccurate data, distorting the true picture of America for the next decade."

Signing the letter were the following Massachusetts nonprofit funders:

  • Access Strategies Fund, Cambridge: Alexie Torres, executive director
  • Barr Foundation, Boston: James E. Canales, president
  • Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Sheffield: Peter Taylor, president and CEO
  • The Boston Foundation, Boston: Keith A. Mahoney vice president, communications and public Affairs
  • Center for Effective Philanthropy, Cambridge: Phil Buchanan, president
  • Community Foundation for Nantucket, Nantucket: Margaretta Andrews, executive director
  • Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Springfield: Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO
  • Herman and Frieda L. Miller Foundation, Boston: Amy Segal Shorey, program director, and Myron Miller
  • Hyams Foundation, Boston: David Y.S. Moy, Interim executive director
  • The Klarman Family Foundation, Boston: Kim Philbrick McCabe, executive director
  • New England Foundation for the Arts, Boston: Cathy Edwards, executive director
  • Philanthropy Massachusetts, Boston: Jeffrey Poulos Chief, executive officer
  • Resilient Democracy Fund, Boston: Nick Chedli Carter, managing director
  • Tufts Health Plan Foundation, Watertown: Nora Moreno Cargie, president

Funding for many nonprofits is directly tied to accurate population counts; often, the higher the population, the more funds they can receive.

Certain populations have historically been undercounted, including, according to MCEF, urban and rural areas with large populations of low-income residents, people of color, immigrants, non-English speakers, young children, the elderly, renters, and those experiencing homelessness. Cutting short the time to complete the census will lead to undercounts, many nonprofit leaders feel.

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