Erie will challenge the 2020 U.S. Census count that showed the city’s population dwindling

Erie recently lost its status as the fourth-largest city in Pennsylvania, thanks to decennial census data released by the US Census Bureau.

Mayor Joe Schamber’s administration plans to formally challenge those results.

Renee Lamis, Schamber’s chief of staff, confirmed that city officials plan to request a review of the city’s census data through the Census Bureau’s 2020 Census Question Resolution Operation, a process known as CQR name.

The formal review mechanism gives municipalities and counties the ability to request a Census Bureau review of their 2020 counts for possible processing errors or other factors that could lead to inaccurate counts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for the U.S. Census Bureau nationwide and for Erie community leaders who have been organizing information campaigns for more than a year now locally across the country.

According to decennial census data, the city of Erie’s population is now 94,831, down from 101,786 a decade ago and 138,440 at its peak in 1960.

The city has lost 6,955 residents since 2010, a drop of more than 7%, according to census data.

Reading, located in Berks County in the southeastern part of the state, is now the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania. This city has seen its population increase by nearly 8%, from 88,082 in 2010 to 95,112 in 2020.

Erie is the fifth largest city in the state, behind Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown and Reading.

Erie Mayor Joe Schamber.

Erie Mayor Joe Schamber.

2020 census: Erie County, city population drops again, continuing trend

“We will be challenging our 2020 census numbers for several reasons,” Lamis said. “Based on our experience and anecdotal information, we see several areas of concern that could have contributed to producing an undercount and/or that could provide evidence that an undercount has occurred.”

Schamber said he thinks the city’s challenge will be filed in March.

“I really believe we’re well over 100,000 from what we heard from the enumerators who were out in the field,” Schamber said. “They knew there were people in many homes who just wouldn’t open the door.”

The Census Bureau is accepting challenges from municipalities and counties through June 30, 2023, but the bureau hopes to respond to challenges within 90 days of receiving them, according to information on its website.

Lamis said that in Erie and across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic and politics posed multiple challenges to the census count, and the door-to-door had been delayed.

Erie County’s population has declined 3.5 percent over the past decade, from 9,690 people to 270,876, according to decennial census data.

Erie County Attorney Bill Speros said county executive Brenton Davis’ administration “has not yet taken a position” on challenging the census results or whether the county will support the city’s challenge.

The official census count is important because it helps determine the boundaries of congressional districts and the level of funding counties and municipalities receive from state and federal governments for a range of programs and projects over the past 10 years. coming years.

Local officials have estimated that Erie County could lose $2,100 a year in funding for each unaccounted person, or about $20.3 million over the next decade.

Lamis said during the citywide census in 2020, city officials received repeated calls from enumerators and managers asking for the city’s help in getting accurate counts because residents weren’t responding. not on their doorstep. Many of these residents feared COVID-19 or did not trust the census process.

Additionally, Lamis said, the city has seen deadline changes from federal officials regarding the census and difficulty in accurately counting students, who were supposed to be counted in their on-campus residence halls even though many On-campus housing has been closed during the pandemic.

City officials also believe that outdated information from 2010 led to “entire apartment complexes” within city limits being omitted from the census process because the number of apartments had changed.

Additionally, Lamis said, city officials suspect that many immigrants and new Americans living in Erie did not participate in the census due to confusion over whether information about their income, immigration or household size would be part of the process.

Inside data: Refugees and Immigrants Compensate for Population Decline and Increase Erie County’s Diversity

Erie City Council President Liz Allen supports the city's decision to challenge the 2020 decennial census.

Erie City Council President Liz Allen supports the city’s decision to challenge the 2020 decennial census.

Data collected by city officials, for example, shows that nearly 3,000 refugees from 75 countries have resettled in Erie over the past five years.

“We will look to see if it makes sense that such drastic population losses could occur in the face of an influx of refugees and immigrants,” Lamis said.

Mayor Joe Schamber said in August, after the 10-year data was released, that he was disappointed with the census numbers and that his administration would “absolutely” consider questioning the city’s demographics.

For more than a year, Schamber’s administration has repeatedly told townspeople that they need not fear the 2020 census.

To avoid an undercount, city officials distributed a flyer with nine questions asked as part of the national count to allay some residents’ concerns about the questions included in the census and what could be done with them. information they provide.

City of Erie: Flyer tackles census fears

This flyer has been distributed to neighborhood centers around the city, the Erie International Institute, local nonprofits, and other places that traditionally work with communities that may be underreported or hard to count. .

City officials also launched public contests with various prizes to encourage people to participate in the census, and the city tracked census participation in various city neighborhoods.

Erie City Council President Liz Allen said she agrees with the Schamber administration’s decision to challenge the city’s census count.

“I’m a big believer in data, and a challenge could prove what we know anecdotally — that newcomers to Erie were undercounted in the census,” Allen said.

Some 73.1% of Erie County residents responded to the census themselves, nearly identical to the 73.4% who responded in 2010. This left more than a quarter of the county’s estimated population in enumerators.

In July 2020, then-President Donald Trump attempted to exclude undocumented immigrants from the population count sent to Congress to redistribute seats in the House of Representatives, sparking a legal battle.

Additionally, then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the Census Bureau, ordered that the count end prematurely on September 30, 2020, so that preliminary data could be provided to Trump to meet the statutory deadline of December 31. The October 31 deadline would have allowed the winner of the presidential election to send those totals to Congress in the spring.

Writer AJ Rao contributed to this report.

Contact Kevin Flowers at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ETNflowers.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Count Again: City of Erie to Challenge 2020 U.S. Census

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