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Helped Wanted: New Printer for 2020 Census

GPO solicits new bids after contracting snafu with previous printer

The Census Bureau doesn’t have a printer lined up for the upcoming 2020 Census. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The Census Bureau doesn’t have a printer lined up for the upcoming 2020 Census. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Census Bureau is currently without a printer, less than two years before the national head count begins. That has left the Government Publishing Office to accept new bids for the 2020 census printing contract until Sept 10, after previously awarding the contract to a company that has since filed for bankruptcy.

The GPO intends to award the replacement printing and mailing contract in November. This timeline “will ensure there is no negative effect on the 2020 Printing and Mailing Operation or the overall 2020 Census,” according to a Census Bureau statement earlier this month.

In October 2017, the GPO awarded a a $61 million contract to Cenveo for necessary printing and mailing services for census tests and with an option for extending through the 2020 Census. Last month, the company filed for bankruptcy. GPO terminated the contract and reached a settlement with the firm, which included a a $5.5 million payment to Cenveo.

The GPO inspector general found the Cenveo contract was ill-advised and that “GPO did not do an adequate job of protecting the interests of the government,” according to the IG report, which was first reported by NPR.

The 2020 Census has been plagued with problems and controversy. For the first time since 1950, the Census Bureau plans to ask everyone living in the U.S. whether they are citizens. Critics see the question as a way to suppress response from immigrant communities, which could have major political impacts. Census data is used to designate congressional districts and therefore electoral college votes.

A number of states have filed federal lawsuits, claiming that the citizenship question could reduce federal funding to local schools, roadways and other public institutions and services that rely on dollars distributed on the basis of the population count.

The new question would be included at the Justice Department’s request, according to a memo by Wilbur Ross, secretary of the Commerce Department — which oversees the Census Bureau.

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