April 2019 Census Project Update

Census Bureau Budget and Appropriations

On April 16, the Census Project led more than 130 groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and National Association of Business Economists, in a letter urging the House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership to “appropriate $8.45 billion for the U.S. Census Bureau, including at least $7.58 billion in direct funding for 2020 Census operations, in FY 2020.”

The Trump Administration has claimed to request $7.2 billion for the Census Bureau for FY 2020, but that “obscures and fails to meet the Census Bureau’s true funding needs,” because “it assumes a $1 billion carry over” from FY 2019 of funds that desperately need to be spent in FY 2019. “Congress did not direct the Census Bureau to hold any funds available in FY 2019 in reserve (that is, as a carryover) for FY 2020.”

Even besides that “proposed carryover,” the White House’s “FY 2020 request also falls far short of the projected funding needs set forth in the Commerce Department’s revised census lifecycle cost estimate ($15.6 billion). That in-depth assessment of the decennial census budget estimated a FY 2020 funding level of $7.4 billion. Contrary to the Census Bureau’s current assertion that it needs less money now because it faces less risk, challenges to a successful census have only grown since Secretary Ross released that estimate in October 2017.”

“Finally,” the letter emphasized, the White House FY 2020 request “doesn’t reflect two historical census funding trends: 1) about half of the census lifecycle costs is spent in the census year; and 2) census year funding for the decennial census is at least twice the funding level of the prior fiscal year.”

Therefore, Census Project stakeholders urged in their letter “to provide the Census Bureau with $8.45 billion in FY 2020, including $7.58 billion in direct funding for the 2020 Census.”

Congressional action

  • The Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on the Commerce Department’s FY 2020 request, including the Census Bureau, on April 2. Their House counterpart followed suit on April 3. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross declined to testify, so Census Director Stephen Dillingham testified at the Senate hearing and the House hearing ended up with no witnesses testifying.
  • Brian Schatz (D-HI) led a group of Senators in a letter to the Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee in support of our requested Census Bureau funding level and details. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) similarly weighed in with a letter from his position as Ranking Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Current Operations and Spending

  • The Census Project joined with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NALEO Educational Fund, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC in a letter to House and Senate appropriators on April 29 in support of the Census Bureau using all of its available FY19 resources in FY19.
  • The Census Bureau held a big press event for Census Day on April 1, 2019.
  • The House CJS Appropriations Committee held an oversight hearing on 2020 Census operations on April 30.

The American Community Survey (ACS)

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE-03) introduced H.R. 2392, legislation that would make response to most questions on the American Community Survey (ACS) voluntary instead of mandatory. He picked up the mantle from now-retired Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX-02), who had led the charge on this issue in legislation and appropriations floor amendments for years. See the Census Project’s ACS resources page for more background.

Citizenship Question

  • On April 23, the Supreme Court held oral arguments in the case against the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census by the Commerce Department. Read the transcript and listen to the audio.
  • As numerous parties were filing amicus briefs at SCOTUS at the beginning of April, the President tweeted that the decennial headcount would be “would be meaningless and a waste of the $Billions (ridiculous) that it costs to put together” without the citizenship question. Nonpartisan experts disagreed.
  • On April 2, the House Oversight Committee issued subpoenas (in a 23-14 vote on a resolution) to the Justice Department for further “testimony in connection with the Committee’s investigation into the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.”
  • On April 9, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) led another letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging the inclusion of language in the FY20 CJS Appropriations legislation to prohibit funds for “any question that was not included in the 2018 End-to-End Census Test in Providence, Rhode Island.”

Other Resources

News You Can Use

Below is a small sample of articles posted on The Census Project home page in April. For a complete listing, go to https://thecensusproject.org/recent-media/ and follow us on Twitter.

Recent Media

Citizenship Questions