The new year commenced with a lot of census news and activities, signaling what promises to be a very active year heading into the home stretch of the 2020 Census.
Appropriations and Government Shutdown Update
The partial government shutdown, which began on December 22, 2018, lingered throughout most of January. It ended on January 25, 2019, when Congress and the Administration agreed to a short-term funding agreement, which expires on February 15.
During the 34-day shutdown, portions of the Census Bureau were operating with funds totaling over $1 billion, which Congress provided in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 omnibus appropriations bill. Specifically, these “carry-over” funds allowed the Census Bureau to support 2020 Census operations in FY 2019 and during the shutdown period. In addition, the Bureau sustained operations related to reimbursable surveys that it conducts for fully funded agencies, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Center for Health Statistics. However, many other activities, such as the Economic Census, American Community Survey, and Survey of Income and Program Participation, were suspended during the shutdown.
Following the shutdown, The Census Project and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent a letter to congressional leaders, urging “adequate, timely investment in 2020 Census preparations” in the final FY 2019 funding package and calling for “an uninterrupted funding ramp up.” Census stakeholders are optimistic that the final FY 2019 funding package will include $3.821 billion for the Census Bureau. This funding level was recommended in H.R. 648, the FY 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act–the most recent legislation that the U.S. House of Representatives passed to fund all remaining agencies affected by the partial government shutdown. When combined with the $1 billion in carry-over funds, the Census Bureau is on track to receive a FY 2019 funding level that census stakeholders have been recommending. Census stakeholders are also pleased that a report accompanying H.R. 648 encourages the Census Bureau to invest resources in opening Question Assistance Centers, boosting the partnership program, and expanding targeted communications activities.
Seven lawsuits have been filed in federal courts in New York, Maryland, California, and D.C, challenging the addition of a new citizenship question on the 2020 Census. On January 15, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman issued his 277-page decision in the New York cases, blocking the Commerce Department from asking about citizenship in the 2020 Census. In his decision, Judge Furman ruled that the Administration had violated the Administrative Procedure Act in multiple ways and “ignored and violated a clear statutory duty” to use existing government records to gauge citizenship status rather than directly asking the question on the decennial census.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco recently asked the Supreme Court to expedite a review of the decision, bypassing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
To ensure the timely production and printing of the 2020 Census questionnaire, a final decision on the citizenship question must be reached before this summer. Census stakeholders are urging Congress to act now and prevent the addition of the question on the 2020 Census.
In news related to the citizenship question, on February 1, the Census Bureau announced it will be conducting a nationwide self-response survey of approximately 480,000 households (using the ACS platform) this summer involving the citizenship question. According to Census Bureau officials, the survey will help the agency determine how to maximize the largest number of responses to the citizenship question and “inform staffing, training, and planning decisions.”
U.S. Senate Confirms Census Bureau Director Dillingham
On January 2, the United States Senate voted unanimously to confirm Dr. Steven Dillingham to be the next Director of the United States Census Bureau. Dr. Dillingham will fill the position for the reminder of a five-year term that expires on December 31, 2021.
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