Right now, the U.S. census is under threat with the Trump administration cutting time frames short.

It is likely becoming yet another way to interfere with the November 2020 election, in addition to ramping down the US Postal system, closing mailing centers and literally pulling postal mail boxes from street corners.

The slow down has already been noticed across the USA and cutbacks on service have been scheduled for WV.

And unless the U.S. Senate’s COVID-19 relief bill contains an extension of the deadline to complete the census, West Virginians will pay the price—for the next decade, already leading the nation with citizens failing to respond.

The census is incredibly important to the state.

Each year, census figures help direct enormous amounts of federal funding. An analysis of 55 census-directed programs found that in fiscal year 2016, West Virginia received $6.8 billion in funding based on census results that includes:

$472 million for highway planning and construction

$499 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

$78 million in special education grants

$77 million for school lunches

$29 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

$8.4 million in grants to prevent and treat substance abuse

One important census-based formula is the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), which determines how funding is allocated for five major programs that support the health and well-being of children and families: Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Foster Care Program, the Adoption Assistance Program, and the Child Care and Development Fund. In fiscal year 2015, for each person not counted in the last census, the state of West Virginia lost $1,017 in FMAP funds.

Moreover, census data have been used to allocate resources from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and will almost certainly be used to allocate future federal funds to combat COVID-19. The state of West Virginia was expected to receive an estimated $1.25 billion in CRF funds.

All of this money depends on an accurate census. Last April, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau released a joint statement saying that an extended deadline for data collection was necessary to protect public health and to ensure a complete and accurate count of all communities.

But recently, the administration reversed its course and announced that it now intends to cut short the collection of census data despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As of August 4, the response rate of the census stood at only 62.9 percent.

The response rate in West Virginia is significantly lower, at 54.6 percent.

That means that unless the deadline for the census is extended, West Virginia stands to lose millions of dollars in federal funding every year until the 2030 census is complete.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only negative consequence of an inaccurate census. Census figures determine congressional apportionment—how many seats each state receives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Companies also rely on census data to help locate customers and to guide major business decisions, such as where to invest and create new jobs.

In other words, an incomplete census is bad for democracy, bad for business, and bad for West Virginia. Political leaders should act swiftly to ensure that the Census Bureau has the time it needs—the time the administration previously requested—to conduct a full, fair, and accurate census.

Most importantly, that means that the deadlines for delivering apportionment counts and redistricting data should be extended four months to April 30, 2021 and July 30, 2021, respectively; and secondly, that data collection should be allowed to continue until October 31 instead of September 30.