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Key set of community-level data won’t be released by U.S. Census Bureau due to pandemic

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:41 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2021 at 11:08 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The U.S. Census Bureau just announced it will release its redistricting statistics from the 2020 Census this Thursday.

The first part of the 2020 Census was released this past April, providing updated population numbers for the nation and states.

The 2020 Census will be complete once the redistricting data is released.

But one key set of information gathered last year in a survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, including data on population, workforce, and housing at the community level will not be released.

19 Investigates found that could have an impact on who and what gets funded.

The American Community Survey or ACS is a snapshot into the lives of everyday Americans.

The data for the survey is collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.

It tells us whether people rent or own, have health insurance, their commute time and how long they work.

And that information leads to big decisions by local officials, community leaders and businesses.

But because of the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau announced it will not release its standard 1-year estimates from the 2020 ACS.

The agency cited low response rates, especially from people with lower incomes and education levels.

The ACS said it only collected about 2/3 of the responses it normally collects.

Here’s Richard Coffin is chief product officer at Usafacts.org, a non-partisan non-profit.

They provide information on spending and demographics as a free public service.

He explained how important the ACS is to communities across the country.

“It’s how you understand things about housing and about education and other characteristics, down at the city, county and sometimes even down to the blocks level. So it’s really important for understanding what’s going on in different places and understanding especially in an important year when there were so many shifts in America in the pandemic, it would be such a valuable resource for us to have available today,” Coffin said.

The federal government uses the ACS to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

Local governments use it too. Coffin said businesses and non-profits will struggle without updated data.

He pointed to the state of health insurance in Ohio as an example.

“Ohio generally has more people covered by health insurance in the country on average. But more people in Ohio are also covered by their employers. And Ohio lost more jobs than the country on average last year. So a question I have that I wish we could have answered through the survey, is how many people lost health insurance by losing their jobs last year, and what are the gaps that the local gov’t could make up?” COFFIN SAID.

The 10-year Census shows us where people live, their ages, race and marital status.

These demographics will be used to redraw legislative voting districts.

For now, cities and non-profits will have to rely on 2019 data from the American Community Survey.

The American Community Survey covers 40 social, demographic, economic and housing topics and is usually released in September and December each year.

Experimental data from the survey will be released in the fall, but experts said it should not be relied on to make important policy decisions.

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