Census Bureau invites appeals of counts of dorms, prisons

Governments across the U.S. can start challenging the counts of prisons, dorms and nursing homes in their jurisdictions starting next week if they believe they are incorrect, the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday in mailings sent out to communities.

The bureau started sending out 40,000 notices to state, local and tribal governments across the U.S. to let them know they have through June 2023 to a request a review of their “group quarters” populations if they feel they were undercounted during the 2020 census.

People living in group quarters were among the hardest populations to count during the once-a-decade head count of U.S. residents that determines how many congressional seats each state gets as well as how $1.5 billion in federal spending is allocated each year. The pandemic hindered the Census Bureau’s ability to get information about such residents since students on campus were sent home when the pandemic began in the U.S. in March 2020, and prisons and nursing homes went into lockdowns against the spread of the coronavirus.

Because of the challenges posed by the pandemic to the group quarters count, the Census Bureau set up for the first time a one-time operation to review counts in dorms, nursing homes, prisons, military barracks, residential treatment centers and group homes.

Nothing can be done to change how congressional seats were divided up among the states, nor can the data used to redraw political districts be altered. However, any changes stemming from a review of the group quarters count may be used for future population estimates and surveys that help distribute federal resources.

The group quarters review is separate from another Census Bureau program allowing state, local and tribal governments to challenge housing counts or boundaries made from processing errors.

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