Senate Releases Census Funding Legislation for FY 2023

While the Senate will not move appropriations legislation through normal order for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, the Senate Appropriations Committee just released its proposed legislation and committee reports for each funding bill, including the Commerce Justice Science (CJS) Appropriations legislation that fund the Census Bureau.

The Senate CJS bill would provide $1.485 billion for the Bureau (including $330 million for Current Surveys and Programs and $1.115 million for Periodic Census and Programs), which is:

The bill provides $3.556 million within the Census Bureau’s funding line to support  the Commerce Department’s Office of the Inspector General “for activities associated with carrying out investigations and audits” of the Census Bureau.

Lots of interesting Census Bureau nuggets can also be found within the Senate CJS committee report.

  • Budget account reorganization: The committee again rejected the Bureau’s “proposal to merge Census’s Current Surveys and Programs account with the Periodic Censuses and Programs account to create a new Censuses and Survey account.”
  • High Frequency Data Program: The committee provided “no less than the fiscal year 2022 enacted level for the High Frequency Data Program.”
  • Population Estimate Challenge Program: Recognizing “that pandemic-related disruptions to 2020 Census operations may have resulted in significant undercounts in some localities” and since “census counts are the basis for annual population estimates that are used to distribute Federal funding resources through funding formulas, those estimates should be as accurate as possible,” the committee urged the Bureau, in “conducting the Population Estimates Challenge Program,” to “consider more flexible methodologies and broader use of administrative data to ensure that general-purpose governmental units have meaningful opportunities to present data to dispute the accuracy of the estimates.”
  • Census Data Products: The committee report “encourages the Census Bureau to work closely with its advisory committees, stakeholders representing public interests, and the data user community to ensure the availability of useful data products, especially for population groups in rural and remote areas, while protecting the confidentiality of personal Census data.”
  • Disclosure Avoidance: The committee said that the Census Bureau “should continue to consult regularly with data users on disclosure avoidance methods under consideration for all 2020 Census data products, as well as for other Bureau data programs, including the American Community Survey [ACS].”
  • Cybersecurity and Disinformation: “The Committee 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.”
  • Utilizing Libraries and Community Partners for Census Surveys: “The Committee encourages the Census Bureau to continue its partnership with public libraries and other community technology centers to maximize the response to the ACS 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.”
  • American Community Survey: The committee report “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. The Committee notes that the ACS is often the primary or only source of data available to State, local, and Federal agencies that need adequate information on a wide range of topics. These data are especially important to small towns and rural areas across the country, and the Bureau should ensure that rural areas are covered with the same accuracy as urban areas to the maximum extent practicable. The Committee further expects the Bureau to evaluate the current questions to ensure that this survey captures not only the required statutory data needed to be collected, but also captures data that reflects the complex nature of the Nation’s population. To the greatest extent practicable, the ACS should reduce the number of questions included in the survey and ensure steps are being taken to conduct the ACS as efficiently and unobtrusively as possible.”
  • Race and Ethnicity Data Accuracy: “The Committee continues to be interested in ensuring the publication of accurate data on race and ethnicity across surveys. The Bureau should work with the Office of Management and Budget to facilitate appropriate, scientifically-guided revisions to those standards that will allow the Bureau to modernize its collection of race and ethnicity data based on research and testing results, as soon as practicable. The Bureau is directed to provide a report to the Committee, no later than 180 days after enactment of this act, on its plan for implementing updated race and ethnicity questions for… its surveys, including the ACS and the 2030 Census, and on whether the Bureau believes that additional testing is necessary.”
  • Ask U.S. Panel Survey: “The Committee is concerned about the lack of transparency related to the Census Bureau’s plans for implementation of the Ask U.S. Panel Survey, particularly given the lack of congressional authorization and the expanding scope of the project since it was initially announced. The Bureau is directed to provide a report to the Committee, no later than 60 days following enactment of this act, on the Ask U.S. Panel Survey’s methodology, data collection processes, implementation, incurred and projected costs, and procurement strategy.”

House appropriators want to bring the CJS bill to the floor of the House in August or September, but a larger omnibus funding bill is the most likely outcome, post-election.

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