February 2019 Census Project Update

February was a busy month for census stakeholders! With the resolution of the government shutdown and the fiscal year 2019 appropriations process, census stakeholders forged ahead to educate policymakers about the 2020 Census. During the month of February, Census Project members participated in over 20 meetings with freshmen House offices, informing staff about a wide range of census-related funding and policy issues and preparing them for the Census Bureau’s needs in FY2020. Further, at the invitation of the House Census Caucus, the Census Project sponsored a Census 101 briefing to inform new and returning congressional staff members about key census funding, policy, and planning issues facing the 116th Congress. The event was standing-room only with about 90 House and Senate staff members in attendance.

Final FY2019 Appropriations

After the government shutdown, which didn’t shutdown 2020 Census preparations at the Census Bureau but likely slowed them down, the Census Project, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) sent a letter to Congress urging “an adequate, timely investment in 2020 Census preparations as you negotiate the final spending bills for FY 2019” and warning against the likely effects of another shutdown. Thankfully, Congress responded, approving a billion dollar increase in Census Bureau funding ($3.82 billion) for Fiscal Year 2019 in the final omnibus appropriations law.

The FY19 funding was on top of about a billion dollars in forward funding provided in the final FY18 appropriations law that allowed 2020 Census preparations to continue during the last few months despite the disruptive impact of continuing resolutions and a lengthy government shutdown.

The report accompanying the law directed the Census Bureau to “open local questionnaire assistance centers in hard-to-count communities,” as urged by Congressmen in an earlier letter focused on making up for the significant decrease in local census offices compared to 2010.

FY2020 Appropriations

In a recent press release, the Census Project noted that, “In addition to the growing number of threats to a successful enumeration of the population in 2020, Congress also needs to be prepared for sticker shock in FY20, with at least $8 billion reasonably needed for the massive operations that roll out in 2020.” Unfortunately, complete details of the President’s budget won’t arrive until mid-to-late March, but some congressional leaders, like Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), are already warning their colleagues to prepare for the 2020 Census bump-up. The Census Project will be responding to the president’s budget and working with census stakeholders to help communicate the Bureau’s needs heading into the 2020 Census.

Citizenship Question

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in April in the New York lawsuit against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, with a decision expected in June. The federal district judge hearing the California lawsuit denied a White House request to stay the court’s ruling until after the Supreme Court rules. A federal district judge in the Maryland suit against the citizenship question rejected the plaintiffs’ request to issue a preliminary injunction.

Census Director Dillingham

The Census Project ended a hectic month by convening stakeholders for a meeting with new Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham and members of his senior staff on February 28.

Fact Sheets You Can Use

The FCCP Census Funders Initiative released an updated factsheet and timeline of 2020 Census Milestones.

News You Can Use

2020 Census Preparation:

Citizenship Question: