July 2019 Census Project Update


On July 22, congressional leaders and White House officials announced they had reached a two-year budget agreement. The agreement included provisions raising the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021 and revising discretionary spending caps in fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021—actions leaders in the U.S. Senate said were necessary before they would consider any of the FY 2020 appropriations bills. As part of the agreement, the 2020 Census received a unique “cap adjustment” making it one of the few programs singled out for such a designation. Specifically, the agreement provided the 2020 Census with $2.5 billion, meaning Appropriators will have this additional funding outside the caps to use towards supporting the decennial census. The budget agreement passed the House on July 23 by a vote of 284-149. At press time, the Senate was expected to pass the agreement before August 2. President Trump has said he will sign the legislation (H.R. 3877) into law.

While the agreement will be used to establish the topline spending limits and allocations to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees, it does not specify funding levels for individual programs and agencies, which will need to be determined through enactment of the 12 annual spending bills. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider or “mark up” its version of the FY 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, which funds the Census Bureau and 2020 Census, when Congress returns from its August recess in September. In anticipation of this action, on July 24, The Census Project sent the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate Commerce, Science, Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, a letter, urging the Committee to provide the Census Bureau with $8.4 billion in FY 2020 (of which $7.5 billion would be designated for the 2020 Census), in line with the amount appropriated by the House. Over 150 national, state, and local organizations signed the letter.

Citizenship Question

Following more than a week of conflicting messages about the Administration’s response to the Supreme Court’s rejection of the proposed citizenship question on the 2020 Census, the President announced Executive Order #13880. The Executive Order, issued during a July 11 Rose Garden ceremony that included President Trump, Attorney General Barr, and Commerce Secretary Ross, directs federal agencies to provide the Department of Commerce with existing administrative data and records regarding the number of U.S. citizens and noncitizens. The Executive Order also establishes an interagency working group to determine a process by which agencies will “improve access to administrative records, with a goal of making available to the Department [of Commerce] administrative records showing citizenship data for 100 percent of the population.”

On July 23 Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) sent a letter to Secretary Ross and Attorney General Barr, which 16 other Senators signed, expressing opposition to the Executive Order. While the Census Project did not issue a public response to the Executive Order, several Census Project members did issue statements, including the Population Association of America and NALEO Educational Fund.

Sen. Jack Reed also recently wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about his “deep concern over the inclusion of a citizenship question on questionnaires for the Census Bureau’s 2019 Census Test.” Per media reports, he said, “the Census Bureau has not removed these questionnaires from circulation even though there will be no citizenship question on the 2020 Decennial Census.”

Oversight Hearings

On July 16, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing, “2020 Census: Conducting a Secure and Accurate Count.” The hearing witnesses were Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham and two officials from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Robert Goldenkoff, Director of Strategic Issues, and Nicholas Marinos, Director of Information Technology and Cybersecurity. The hearing focused on a wide range of 2020 Census operational issues, including information technology, cybersecurity, communications, and language assistance. A video recording of the hearing is posted on the Committee’s homepage at: https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/2020-census-conducting-a-secure-and-accurate-count.

On July 24, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing, “Beyond the Citizenship Question: Repairing the Damage and Preparing to Count ‘We the People’ in 2020.” The hearing witnesses were Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham and two officials from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Robert Goldenkoff, Director of Strategic Issues, and Nicholas Marinos, Director of Information Technology and Cybersecurity. The House hearing focused on many of the same Census 2020 operational issues discussed during the Senate hearing; however, there was a greater focus on the Bureau’s citizenship question field test and the potential effect of the citizenship question fallout on participation in the 2020 Census. A video recording of the hearing is available at: https://oversight.house.gov/legislation/hearings/beyond-the-citizenship-question-repairing-the-damage-and-preparing-to-count-we.

Legislative Update  

On July 10, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bill, S. 2068, to prohibit the Census Bureau from including citizenship data in the information it provides the states for legislative redistricting. The bill was referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for further consideration.

On July 23, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced legislation, S. 2233, to rescind President Trump’s July 11 Executive Order regarding the collection of citizenship data.

Rep. Jamie Comer (R-KY-01) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the Citizens Count Census Act, H.R.3765 and S. 1358, which would require the addition of a citizenship question to the decennial census.

Census Bureau Updates

The Census Bureau has begun releasing a series of “toolkits” to inform targeted audiences and stakeholders about the 2020 Census and how they can participate. Most recently, the 2020 Census Congressional Toolkit was released and may be found at: https://www2.census.gov/about/ocia/2020-census-congressional-toolkit.pdf.

On July 16, the Census Bureau announced it is partnering with technology companies, such as Apple, Amazon, and Google, to reach hard-to-count populations, including young and mobile millennials. More information is available at: https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/07/hey-siri-why-is-2020-census-important.html.

On July 25, the Census Bureau released the 2020 Census Predictive Models and Audience Segmentation Report. The report explains the Census Bureau’s predictions and understandings of how people might self-respond to the 2020 Census. More information is available at: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2019/audience-segments.html

On July 29, the Census Bureau announced it will be holding an online news conference on August 12 to share details of address canvassing, the first major field operation of the 2020 Census. A media advisory is posted at: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2019/2020-census-first-field-op.html.

Podcast Launched in Support of Census Count

On August 1, the NewsCounts project announced the launch of its Stats+Stories podcast. The goal of this series is to facilitate the exchange of information among the media, data and computer scientists, social scientists, and demographers, regarding the 2020 Census and to inform quality reporting on the need for a “good count.” The Stats+Stories site can be accessed at: https://statsandstories.net/media1/making-the-census-count

Countering 2020 Misinformation

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) recently sent letters to big tech companies urging them to take “responsible actions” to combat 2020 Census misinformation and disinformation online. https://thecensusproject.org/2019/07/18/senator-questions-big-tech-about-2020-census-misinformation-campaigns/

News You Can Use

Below are several articles posted on The Census Project home page in July. For a complete listing, go to: https://thecensusproject.org/recent-media/.

Trump Abandons Effort To Add Citizenship Question to Census
July 11, 2019

Why Trump’s Last Minute Fumbling with Census Could Have Messed Up Count
The Washington Post
July 12, 2019

Budget gridlock imperils 2020 census
July 15, 2019

Overdue Report on Census Preparations Eyed for Fall Completion
Times Union
July 17, 2019

Letter: Citizenship Data 101
The Virginian Pilot
July 18, 2019

Census Eclipses 500K Applicants, Still Needs 2.3M More
Government Executive
July 19, 2019

If it’s new tech, be sure to test it, GAO tells Census Bureau
July 26, 2019

The Census Could Undercount People Who Don’t Have Internet Access
July 29, 2019

Why the 2020 Census Citizenship Question Hasn’t Gone Away
National Public Radio
July 29, 2019