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State Officials Warn Delay In Receiving Census Figures Could Push May Primary To July

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - State officials are warning that the delay by the U.S. Census Bureau in releasing 2020 population figures could move next year's May primary to July.

It could also impact how much Pennsylvanians and the state, counties and cities get in federal aid.

Every ten years, the United States counts people. Those numbers determine the size and shape of our legislative and congressional districts for the next decade, and, importantly, they also determine who gets what when it comes to federal programs. All that is getting delayed.

Last year's 2020 Census figures were supposed to be released by March 31, but that is not happening.

"We were initially told it was going to be delayed until July 31st. We now learned it's going to be September 30th," Pennsylvania Sen. Jay Costa, the Senate Democratic Leader, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.

"Waiting until September, end of September into October, and that's maybe best-case scenario. That puts us in a real bind," added Pennsylvania Sen. Jake Corman, the Republican President Pro Tempore of the state Senate.

Both the top Republican and Democrat in the state Senate say the same thing: the failure to turn over these numbers by the Census Bureau means a delay in drawing 50 state Senate districts, 203 state House districts and 17 new congressional districts, down from the current 18.

"I really believe there's a significant chance that we will move the May primary in 2022, probably back into June, maybe even into July," predicts Costa.

Districts may not be drawn until Spring of 2022, and lawmakers say voters need time to learn their new districts before voting.

"Clearly in the congressional, we're going to have two congressmen in the same district, one way or the other, so there's going to be a lot of change," says Corman.

Another problem: Census data is used to determine who gets how much in medical assistance, food stamps, highway construction, student Pell grants, school lunches, Head Start and dozens of other federal programs.

"A number of those pots of money are triggered based upon Census and population. That's what's going to drive dollars out to Pennsylvania. That's what's going to drive dollars out to the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County," says Costa.

Both senators say it's important for the Census Bureau to get the numbers right, not fast. But this delay will take a toll.

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