Coalition of Census Experts Call on Congress to Ensure Full, Uninterrupted Funding for Census Bureau in Year-End Appropriation Negotiations

WASHINGTON– With the threat of a partial government shutdown looming within days, including the U.S. Census Bureau, a broad-based network of more than 190 business, civic, and academic groups wrote to Senate and House appropriators urging that the Census Bureau receive $4.456 billion in FY 2019 and protection from any shutdown or interruption of funding on the eve of the 2020 national head count.

The census experts impressed upon Congressional appropriators that “census stakeholders have recommended Congress provide the Bureau with at least $1 billion more than the Administration requested. The Bureau needs this funding to not only sustain current 2020 Census operations and other key census programs and surveys, but also to expand underfunded decennial census activities.”

The coalition’s letter stressed three priorities for the Census funding:

  1. Provide the Census Bureau with at least $4.456 billion in FY 2019, ensuring that of this amount, $3.648 billion is spent on 2020 Census activities.
  2. Provide enough funding in FY 2019 for the Census Bureau to carry out the expanded partnership, communications, and field operations efforts discussed in the Senate Appropriations Committee report accompanying the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill (S. Rept. 115-275) and supported by census stakeholders.
  3. Ensure that the Census Bureau has sufficient funding at the start of FY 2020 — including certainty of its full-year funding level through an advance appropriation, if possible — to begin implementing a full 2020 Census program, without shortchanging the bureau in FY 2019, the critical final year of preparations.

Given heightened concerns about low public response to the 2020 Decennial, the groups detailed suggested activities the Congress could direct the Census Bureau to ramp up with the additional funding, including expanded targeted communications activities (+$100 million); an increase in partnership staff from 1,500 to 2,000, and on-boarding of them as soon as possible (+$62.5 million); and an expansion of the bureau’s “field footprint” by adding Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs) during peak operations ($32.9 million), among other steps.

“Ever since Congress directed the Bureau to mount an aggressive paid outreach and advertising program after the disappointing 1990 Census, never has the need for these efforts been greater if we are to win full public cooperation with the 2020 count. We are nearing the 11th hour in preparations and any disruption to funding will put at risk a full and fair count that is vital for the next decade to secure the continuation of fair political representation for our democracy and the just allocation of federal tax dollars to states and localities,” said Mary Jo Hoeksema, co-director of the Census Project.

The groups signing on to the letter are supporters of the Census Project, an even larger and diverse coalition of hundreds of organizations, businesses, academics, non-profits and local governments that has advocated for a full, fair and accurate execution of the Constitutionally-mandated Decennial count.

A full copy of the letter can be found here: