Senator Peters Urges Full Advance Funding for 2020 Census

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, says that he is “acutely aware that the Census Bureau requires robust, on-time funding to complete critical operations for the 2020 Census.” Yesterday, he wrote to Senate Appropriations leadership, urging them to “support the 2020 Census by ensuring the Census Bureau receives full funding for Decennial Census operations, at $7.5 billion, before the beginning of the Fiscal Year on October 1, 2019.”

The Senator’s request is in line with the recent funding requests from Census Project stakeholders and business leaders. The need for an anomaly for the 2020 Census is evident.

Read Sen. Peters’ letter.

Congressional Black Caucus Urges More 2020 Census Funding

Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus recently wrote to House and Senate leadership, urging them to provide the “Census Bureau with the $7.5 billion exemption included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 House Budget Resolution, called the “Investing for the People Act of 2019.” The current two-year budget and debt ceiling deal consists of a lower $2.5 billion cap exemption for the 2020 Census. The 2020 census count will be one of the most consequential counts in the 21st century, and it is an urgent civil rights issue facing our country. That’s why we must invest the appropriate amount of funding to the Census Bureau to ensure a fair and accurate count of all residents in the United States.”

For more on the budget deal, see the Census Project’s July Update.

Rep. Karen Bass, chair of the CBC, and Rep. Steven Horsford, chair of the CBC Census 2020 Task Force, referenced estimates from the Urban Institute that “1.7 million Black residents may be uncounted in 2020, leading to a misallocation of resources over the next ten years. An inaccurate count will hurt vulnerable populations access to health care services, housing, schools, and economic development plans among other priorities. Moreover, in states with high Black populations such as Georgia, 22 percent of the residents live in hard-to-count areas, causing the state to lose $407 million in annual federal funding over the next decade.”

Read the letter.

Reflections Regarding the FY 2020 Census Funding Anomaly

Census stakeholders were pleased when the White House recently released its list of funding anomalies, which included $5.9 billion for the 2020 Census, anticipating the need for a continuing resolution (CR) when the current fiscal year (FY), FY 2019, ends on September 30. Why? Because making the list is an important first step towards ensuring the 2020 Census will be fully funded and able to keep key operations on track while Congress and the Administration negotiate a final FY 2020 appropriations package. Congress now knows funding the 2020 Census, even during a continuing resolution when most of the federal government will be funded at last year’s funding level, is an Administration priority to be singled out for additional funding.

So why are census stakeholders still concerned? While the White House has done the right thing and asked Congress for a 2020 Census funding anomaly, regrettably the requested anomaly is not for the full amount, $7.5 billion, that the House of Representatives approved, nor is it for a full year. As a result, the Administration’s request introduces huge uncertainty in decennial census operations just as the Bureau has launched the first major operation of 2020, Address Canvassing—an operation further disrupted in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida by the recent impact of Hurricane Dorian.

To inoculate the 2020 Census against the perils of potential delays and disruptions in the FY 2020 funding cycle, stakeholders are urging Congress and the Administration to provide the 2020 Census with a full year funding anomaly totaling $7.5 billion in this first iteration of the FY 2020 CR.

The U.S. House of Representative recommended providing the Census Bureau with $7.5 billion in FY 2020, as well as hundreds of census stakeholders nationwide. Now is the time to invest in the 2020 Census and not let its funding nor constitutionally derived mission be derailed by FY 2020 funding deliberations and delays.

House Appropriators Say: America Must Be Counted

Three New York Congressmen are making the case for the House-passed FY20 funding level for the 2020 Census in the New York Daily News. According to Reps. Nita Lowey, Jose Serrano and Grace Meng:

“With less than eight months until 2020 Census Day, it’s time for the federal government to do everything in its power to ensure that every person living in the United States is counted. To make sure that happens, we must provide substantial funding for the Census Bureau to expand its capacity to conduct a thorough, accurate count while addressing vulnerabilities and potential pitfalls.”

The article noted how the House-passed CJS appropriations bill for FY20 included $8.45 billion for the Census Bureau (the same level requested by census stakeholders), including “a strong increase to enable the bureau to conduct a thorough and accurate count of all persons, as required by the Constitution. This funding — a $4.6 billion increase over last year — would enable the bureau to conduct the largest and most technologically advanced decennial census in its history, with more resources for responsible project management and strong cybersecurity protection.”

Read the op-ed here.

Impact of a 2020 Census Hispanic Undercount on Child and Family Assistance Programs

A new research brief from Child Trends explores “the potential reduction in funding to states for five critical federal programs that could result from an undercount of Hispanics in the 2020 Census.” It includes interactive maps and data tables to “illustrate low, medium, and high estimates of potential losses of federal funding to states for five programs: the Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid, children only), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Title IV-E Foster Care, Title IV-E Adoption Assistance, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).”

Key findings from the Child Trends analysis include that Texas, Florida, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Colorado are estimated to “lose the most in annual federal funding as a result of a Hispanic undercount.” Meanwhile, “the median annual loss of federal funds” across the country would be “about $5 million in the low-range scenario and about $20 million in the high-range scenario. For many states, the loss in federal funding will be considerably greater.”

“Hispanic children are particularly at risk for being undercounted, and accounted for more than 36 percent (a disproportionate share) of the 2010 total net undercount of all children under age 5.”

childtrends graphic

GAO Testimony on Risks to 2020 Census

According to testimony from GAO at a recent House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties hearing, the agency placed the 2020 Census on their “high-risk list in February 2017, and it remains on our high-risk list today. As preparations for the next census continue to ramp up, fully implementing our recommendations to address the risks jeopardizing the 2020 Census is more critical than ever.”

The decennial headcount ended up on GAO’s high-risk list because the Census Bureau:

  1. “is using innovations that are not expected to be fully tested,”
  2. “continues to face challenges in implementing information technology (IT) systems,” and
  3. “faces significant cybersecurity risks to its systems and data.”

GAO claimed that the Bureau needs to do more to counter such risks, which “could adversely impact the cost, quality, schedule, and security of the enumeration.”

GAO also expressed continued suspicion about the Census Bureau’s cost estimates, although the updated 2020 Census life-cycle cost estimate was not released until July 15, so GAO hadn’t yet had time to evaluate it.

The 2020 Census “is conducted against a backdrop of immutable deadlines. In order to meet the statutory deadline for completing the enumeration, census activities need to take place at specific times and in the proper sequence. Thus, it is absolutely critical for the Bureau to stay on schedule.”


Counting Disabled People in the 2020 Census

People with disabilities are a hard-to-count demographic group, according to the Census Bureau.

A recent brief from the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) and National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), “Why the Census Matters for People with Disabilities: A Guide to the 2020 Census Operations & Challenges,” explores the census operations relevant to the disabled community and discusses why the 2020 Census matters for people with disabilities.

Every self-response mode for the decennial should be fully accessible. “The bureau has conducted checks to ensure system compliance with Section 508 standards.” Guides will be available in braille, large print, and in 59 non-English languages, “including an American Sign Language video guide.” The Bureau’s call centers “will answer questions and accept responses in English and in 12 other languages” and “will utilize Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD) technology.”

The physically and developmentally disabled are at risk of undercount “due to distinct yet often overlapping causes. When poorly designed and tested, inaccessible surveys restrict the participation of people with disabilities. Similarly, insufficient or ineffective outreach efforts may also mean that people with disabilities are not informed of the necessary resources available to support completing the survey. People with disabilities may also feel reluctant to participate in the census. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with disabilities may be suspicious of the government or concerned that personal information will be used to determine their eligibility for government programs. Individuals with a mental health history, for example, may strongly mistrust federal authorities due to past experiences of involuntary treatment or the criminalization of behavior and circumstances associated with their mental health condition.” Disabled people may also be part of other hard to count demographic groups or live in hard to count areas.

The GCPI-NDRN brief offers a series of ways to “ensure a more accurate count of people with disabilities.”

CP disabled graphic