On the eve of the 2020 Census, the Census Project commended Congress for finalizing the funding necessary for a fulsome headcount of the U.S. population. The House of Representatives today passed H.R. 1158, “minibus” legislation to fund much of the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020, which included nearly $6.7 billion for the 2020 Census (almost $7.6 billion for the Census Bureau overall).
As more than 200 organizations and companies pointed out in a December 6 stakeholder letter to Congress, “Major census operations have already begun and critical final steps— from recruiting and screening staff, to verifying addresses, to finalizing outreach and advertising plans — are finished or underway.”
The full funding in H.R. 1158 should allow the Census Bureau to reduce the risk of some looming threats that could undermine the count, such as natural disasters, cybersecurity attacks, IT failures, political controversies, or failure of new untested counting methodologies for rural and remote areas. Now that the Bureau has full-year funding certainty, it will be able to commit the resources needed for final preparations, major operations, and expanded activities targeting hard-to-count communities in rural, suburban and urban areas, without concern that funding might fall short or be cut off by a government shutdown.
The minibus’ funding level for the 2020 Census for FY2020 is the same as passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee this fall, $1.4 billion more than that requested by the White House ($5.3 billion), and $800 million below the House-passed CJS Appropriations level ($7.5 billion). It comes in addition to more than a billion dollars in funds carried over from FY2018, in contravention of Congressional direction.
Census Project co-director Howard Fienberg said, “We applaud Congress for finally providing the necessary funding. Now we must shift to the bigger lift: completing an inclusive and accurate 2020 Census count. Anything less could have a trickle-down impact restraining or harming American business investment and decision-making for the next decade, disrupting the accurate apportionment of electoral districts, and impeding the geographic distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding every year.”
The report accompanying H.R. 1158 specified that it “supports no less than the level of effort for outreach and communications that was utilized in preparation for the 2020 Decennial Census, adjusted for inflation.”
According to Census Project co-director Mary Jo Hoeksema, “the appropriators set the right tone, but it is up to Congressional oversight to ensure that the Census Bureau delivers a robust outreach and communications campaign.”