Update on FY 2019 Census Bureau Budget Action So Far

Both the House (H.R. 5952) and Senate (S. 3072) Appropriations Committees have now completed their versions of the FY 2019 Census Bureau budget.

The Census Project position, supported by about 150 stakeholder organizations, was outlined in a letter to Senators.

The more recent Senate bill was completed in mid-June. Our colleague Terri Ann Lowenthal then made the complicated calculations comparing the House and Senate bills. Here’s what she found:

The Census Bureau was budgeted for $3.821 billion in the Senate version. That’s $1.007 billion above the FY 2018 Bureau appropriation and about $21 million above the Trump Administration request for this fiscal year. This compares with the Census Project ask of about $4.7 billion for FY 2019. (The additional $21 million is for the Current Surveys and Programs account, which does not include the decennial census. The extra money restores this account to the FY 2018 level after the administration proposed a cut to vital ongoing surveys — a boost for which the Census Project advocated.)

But, now it gets complicated! The Senate’s proposed FY 2019 appropriation was $978 million below the House committee mark of $4.799 billion. But the House bill assumes that about $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion of the FY 2019 appropriation will be spent in the first quarter of FY 2020.

So, here’s an example of when less is likely more!

First, according to Terri Ann, both House and Senate appropriators assume that some of the FY 2018 funding will be spent in FY 2019 instead of FY 2018. That’s because this year’s final Bureau budget was not approved until this past Spring. Census Bureau leaders have said they will carry over $1.056 billion from FY 2018 to FY 2019, according to current plans.

So, the bottom line is that it appears that the FY 2019 Senate bill will result in more funding for the 2020 Census this fiscal year than the House bill. It allocates the administration’s budget request and assumes an additional $1.056 billion will be available without any forward funding for FY 2020, for a total of roughly $4.2 billion for the 2020 Census in FY 2019.

Meanwhile, according to Terri Ann’s calculations, the House bill will result in only $3.4 billion for the 2020 Census in FY 2019, including the carry-over from FY 2018.

The House and Senate are not on the same page with regards to FY 2019 funding for the 2020 Census! Census advocates and stakeholders have a lot of work to do to explain the need for consistent, increased support for the next decennial.

We will be urging Congress to accept the Senate appropriation for FY 2019 as a minimum to achieve the goals set forth in our Senate letter of expanded partnership staff and experts, a stepped-up communications campaign, and larger field infrastructure. We also will be seeking assurances from Congress that the final appropriated amount for FY 2019 is sufficient to cover these vital activities, in addition to any forward funding for FY 2020.