The House Appropriations Committee approved the Commerce Justice Science (CJS) Appropriations Fiscal Year 2023 legislation on June 28, 2022 by a 31-24 vote, following the prior week’s approval of the bill in the House CJS Subcommittee.
The House bill matches the Administration’s request for the Census Bureau: $1.505 billion ($151.5 million above the FY 2022 enacted level). That includes $336,176,000 for Current Surveys and Programs and $1,169,294,000 for Periodic Census and Programs (with this account’s funds available to spend over two fiscal years, not just one). The funding levels fall short of the Census Project’s FY 2023 recommendation, which was echoed by stakeholders and multiple Representatives and Senators.
The committee report outlines a variety of priorities of interest to Census Project stakeholders, including:
- Appropriators rejected the Census Bureau’s proposed revision of their account structures: “The recommendation does not assume the new appropriation account structure proposed by the Administration.”
- Appropriators are eager for details on updating race and ethnicity questions, with a new Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) ethnicity category and the integration of Hispanic origin into the race question: “The Committee looks forward to receiving the report directed in House Report 117–97 under the heading ‘‘Modernizing the collection and publication of race and ethnicity data’’ and continues to urge the Census Bureau to continue its 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, including the addition of a Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) ethnicity category and a combined race and Hispanic origin question, as soon as practicable.”
- Appropriators provide significant direction to the Census Bureau on the High Frequency Data Program (the pulse surveys), directing “no less than the fiscal year 2022 enacted level” and encouraging the Census Bureau “to include frequent and timely measures of poverty and material hardship, including measures focused on child poverty and children and family wellbeing, as part of the continued expansion of the program,” as well as considering “measures of children and family wellbeing related to housing and food insecurity; access to child care and transportation; ability to balance work, educational, and caregiving responsibilities; ability to pay household expenses; family savings and debt; and ability to afford educational and extracurricular activities for children. Where appropriate, the Committee encourages the Bureau to include a breakdown of data by race and ethnicity, including for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) racial and ethnic subgroups and for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN). Additionally, the Committee directs the Bureau to report to the Committee not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act on these efforts.”
- Appropriators want improvements in poverty data collection via the Current Population Survey (CPS), including expanding the sample size, conducting the CPS in Puerto Rico, and exploring the possibility to also run it in other territories: “Improving Annual Poverty Data Collection.—Annual estimates of the Official Poverty Measure and the Supplemental Poverty Measure both come from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) sample of the Census’ Current Population Survey (CPS)— sometimes referred to as the ‘‘March sample.’’ The CPS is a monthly survey of employment and labor force activity—and the March sample has additional questions measuring incomes over the prior calendar year that allows both the Census and academic researchers to measure poverty. As with all surveys, estimates are limited by the statistical ‘‘power’’ associated with the sample size. The Committee recognizes that the cost of collecting data for CPS to maintain current sample size and quality requirements has increased significantly over recent years. The recommendation includes the requested increase for CPS in the budget proposal and recognizes the Census Bureau, in coordination with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, will use these additional resources to assess the feasibility of combining CPS survey data with other sources of information, such as administrative data and population estimates, to produce estimates on topics of interest. The Committee recognizes the interest in poverty measures for discrete populations—including AAPI and AIAN, groups of certain ethnicities, or even poverty measures for a congressional district. Within the funds provided, the Committee urges the Census Bureau to increase the sample size of the March supplement of the CPS. Additionally, the Committee recognizes the Census Bureau’s work in determining the feasibility of expanding this survey to Puerto Rico and appreciates the report including estimated costs for implementation provided to the Committee in June 2020. The Committee urges that, within funds provided, steps are taken to begin this work. The Committee encourages the Census Bureau to review the feasibility of expansion in the remaining territories and to report to the Committee on these efforts no later than 120 days after enactment of this Act.”
- Appropriators are concerned about 2030 Census political interference: “The Committee is concerned over the accuracy of the 2020 Decennial Census and the impact the Department’s unprecedented engagement in technical matters with the Census Bureau during the years leading up to the 2020 Decennial may have had on the efficacy of response rates. The Committee directs a briefing from the Census Bureau, in coordination with the Scientific Integrity Task Force, no later than 45 days after enactment of this Act on steps it is taking to minimize interference in the 2030 Decennial Census.”
- As sought in The Census Project’s FY2023 funding recommendation, appropriators are seeking to bolster the Population Estimates: “Additionally, the Committee recognizes that pandemic-related disruptions to the 2020 Decennial Census operations may have resulted in significant undercounts in some localities. The Committee notes that decennial census counts are the basis for annual population estimates that are used to distribute Federal resources, and therefore, those estimates should be as accurate as possible. As the Census Bureau reinstates the Population Estimates Challenge Program this decade, the Census Bureau should consider more flexible methodologies and broader use of administrative data to ensure meaningful opportunities to improve the accuracy of the estimates, including appropriate improvements to the estimates base. Additionally, the Committee directs GAO to review the Census Bureau’s efforts and brief the Committee within 180 days of the Census Bureau completing its related work on the Population Estimates Challenge Program.”
- Appropriators are also keeping an eye on the Bureau’s Ask U.S. Panel project, which is under evaluation by the Office of the Inspector General: “The Committee acknowledges the ongoing work of the OIG regarding the ‘‘Evaluation of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Award and Use of a Cooperative Agreement (#2022–420)’’ and expects the OIG to keep the Committee apprised of its findings.”