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Congressman Neal Discusses 2020 Census Deadline in Chicopee

September 18, 2020
In The News

CHICOPEE — Early indications from the 2020 Census show Massachusetts' population is growing fast enough to retain all nine of its Congressional districts, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal said Friday.

Neal spoke at a Chicopee event urging people across the region to respond during what officials fear will be the last 12 days of the 2020 count.

Neal said he’s basing his assessment on conversations with the state’s top Census official, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin. Earlier, there’d been hope that Massachusetts could gain a seat, but that now seems unlikely.

The new districts won’t be drawn up for more than a year after the Census.

Massachusetts lost a Congressional district in the 2010 Census.

The U.S. Census Bureau has said it plans to end the count in Massachusetts by Sept. 30 while Neal, Galvin and others are pushing for enumeration work to continue through October in a year when nearly every aspect of life has been constrained by the coronavirus pandemic.

“If anyone needs help, this is our last push,” said Chicopee Mayor John Vieau. “September 30th is the day.”

The event was held on the front steps of Kevin A. Dupont Memorial Middle School in Chicopee.

People can get information on responding to the Census at www.census.gov/. Chicopee Registrar of Voters Janina Surdyka is assisting city residents.

Both Vieau and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission said Friday that there has been outreach for months in hard-to-reach communities, including among lower income and English-as-a-second-language residents. But many of the community events were Census boosters had hoped to get the word out didn’t happen.

“And we all know why they didn’t happen,” Vieau said.

Chicopee’s self response rate is 70.8%, according to the Census Bureau. That trails the city’s final 2010 response rate of 74.6%. In Springfield, it’s 60.9%, compared with 67.4% in 2010.

Across the 1st Congressional District Neal represents, Census response rates average 68.7% — below the 71.1% final completion rate for 2010.

That’s just the self-response rate, though, with enumerators now following up house-by-house.

“This is a snapshot of what the American Family looks like every decade,” Neal said, adding that census numbers determine federal spending and not just federal, state and local representation.

He complained that the Census — which used to be a nonpartisan civic endeavor — is now caught up in the divisive politics of the moment. He said President Donald J. Trump’s administration was wrong to attempt to add a question asking about citizenship and wrong in its attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants for purposes of drawing congressional districts.

“But now Congressional seats are in play,” said Neal, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

He reiterated criticism of the Department of Justice for its partisanship in not turning over records to a federal judge hearing a lawsuit brought by Neal and his fellow House Democrats over Census documents.

“We want to make sure that everyone is counted,” Neal said. “Because that makes sure down the road that every vote is counted.”