Post-Shutdown Census Priorities for Congress

Following the most recent government shutdown, Congress needs to commit “to an adequate, timely investment in 2020 Census preparations as” the House, Senate and White House “negotiate the final spending bills for FY 2019.”

According to a recent letter from the Census Project, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), the “Census Bureau must have an uninterrupted funding ramp-up, from final preparations this year through peak operations in 2020, to help ensure the success of this constitutionally-mandated national activity.”

“Equally important,” the groups commented, “is certainty as to level of resources and congressional directives, to guide activities and schedule for the remainder of the fiscal year.”

Why the urgency? The 2020 Census starts early next year and the “partial government shutdown that ended on January 25 severely threatened” preparation. As the letter explained, “We know that the Census Bureau tried to reassure lawmakers and the public that it has sufficient fiscal resources to continue 2020 Census activities on schedule and at full scope through April. While we appreciate the Bureau’s commitment to fulfilling its mission under difficult circumstances, the lack of transparency makes it impossible to evaluate these statements. Of related and equal concern, Census Bureau leadership cannot plan for expanded 2020 Census activities (as highlighted in recent versions of committee bills) without certainty about the Bureau’s full year funding level, or at least knowledge of when additional funds will become available. Early in the recent government shutdown, the Bureau estimated that forward funding for 2020 Census activities would last six to eight weeks, but later doubled this projection. This significant revision suggests that some activities are being streamlined, paused, or not carried out at the pace necessary to ensure robust preparations in the field.”

Read the February 4 letter to Congress.