On December 21, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed two measures combining all 12 Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills and a COVID relief measure. President Trump is expected to sign the measures into law.
The bill containing the FY 2021 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill, H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, includes $1.106 billion for the U.S. Census Bureau. The funding is allocated through two major categories (accounts):
- CURRENT SURVEYS AND PROGRAMS – $288,403,000
- PERIODIC CENSUSES AND PROGRAMS – $818,241,000 in direct appropriations.
In addition to this “new” funding, the Appropriations Committees explained that the Census Bureau can spend a total of $1,664,709,000, which is reached by combining prior year funds (a “carry over”) and its FY 2021 direct appropriation. Of this amount, $934,430,000 is for 2020 Census activities. In addition, the agreement authorizes the Bureau to tap $91,000,000 in the contingency reserve fund, if necessary, to complete the 2020 Census.
The bill authorizes the transfer of up to $208,000,000 to the Census Working Capital Fund to renovate the Census Bureau’s headquarters, as the agency prepares to accommodate an eventual relocation of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The final FY 2021 amount roughly meets the funding request of Census Project stakeholders (just over $1.681 billion), as well as the CJS bills as passed by the House (also just over $1.681 billion) and Senate (just under $1.8 billion).
A statement accompanying the bill further explains lawmakers’ intent with respect to the funds allocated and priorities for the Census Bureau’s work:
- Quarterly Status Reports-The Census Bureau is directed to continue its quarterly status reports to the Committees until the tabulations of populations required under 13 U.S.C. 14l(c) are reported to the States.
- 2020 Census Operations Evaluation-Within one year of enactment of this Act, the Census Bureau shall submit an initial report to the Committee evaluating the 2020 Census operations, the ability to reach hard-to-count populations, initial assessments of data quality, as well as the costs and the adequacy of resource allocation throughout the Decennial Census cycle. As part of this evaluation, the Bureau should include elements such as modified operations, and the use of secretarial and risk-based contingency funds.
- 2020 Census Data Availability-The Bureau is encouraged to work closely with stakeholders representing public interests, the Census Advisory Committees, and the data user community to ensure the availability of accurate data products for use by the public. The Bureau should continue seeking regular feedback from data users on disclosure avoidance and to evaluate privacy protection methods being considered for other Bureau data programs.
- Ensuring the Integrity and Security of Surveys and Data-The agreement clarifies House report language and directs the Census Bureau to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security, and other relevant agencies, to prepare for, prevent, and disrupt cyber intrusions and disinformation campaigns that have the potential to impact survey participation or compromise data collected by the Census Bureau. The Bureau should also coordinate with State and local stakeholders and private industry, as appropriate. The agreement expects the Census Bureau to prioritize these efforts and to update the Committee on its efforts.
- Utilizing Libraries and Community Partners for Census Surveys-The Census Bureau is encouraged to continue its partnership with public libraries and other community technology centers to maximize the response to the American Community Survey and other surveys and assessments as appropriate. The Bureau is encouraged to work with libraries and library organizations, in coordination with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, regarding training for library staff and webinars or conference presentations to library audiences about Census surveys and assessments.
- Website Modernization-The agreement supports the Census Bureau’s efforts to implement the requirements of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) (Public Law 115-336) which will enable the Bureau to improve digital service delivery and data dissemination. The Bureau is further encouraged to implement requirements that effectively modernize the Bureau’s public-facing digital services and to leverage cloud services for its website to help achieve cost savings, efficiencies, and compliance with the IDEA website modernization requirements.
- American Community Survey (ACS)-The agreement supports the ACS and directs the Bureau to continue using the ACS as a testbed for innovative survey and data processing techniques that can be used across the Bureau. In executing the ACS, the Bureau should ensure that rural areas are covered with the same accuracy as urban areas to the maximum extent practicable.
Census stakeholders are disappointed that the measure does not include a provision extending the statutory reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting data. Efforts are underway to convince Congress to extend the deadlines as soon as the 117th Congress convenes next month. Advocates argue that Congress must offer certainty to the Census Bureau’s career experts as they work to finish data processing, tabulate the apportionment counts, and then prepare the redistricting files for the states.