CJS bill: A successful 2020 Census is at risk

To: Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee
Re: FY 2018 CJS bill – Support adequate funding for the U.S. Census Bureau
Date: Monday, July 24, 2017

As your committee marks up the FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill, the broad, diverse group of stakeholder organizations represented by The Census Project (www.thecensusproject.org) urge you to prioritize funding for the 2020 Census and allocate at least $300 million more than the President’s budget request, for a total Census Bureau appropriation of at least $1.8 billion. A higher funding level is required to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census in all communities and to avoid large cost increases for the decennial census in the final years of the decade, as well as to preserve the quality of other vital datasets.

Specifically, sufficient 2020 Census funding is needed to:

  1. restore a comprehensive census dress rehearsal in urban, suburban, and rural sites in 2018;
  2. build-out a secure, fully tested IT system for the census; and
  3. resume development of a robust communications and partnership campaign, which has been stalled and streamlined due to insufficient funding in 2017.

The administration’s FY 2018 request is not a sufficient funding ramp-up to keep rigorous 2020 Census planning and preparations on track. Already, budget constraints have caused delays and changes in several key operations that could increase census costs in the next few years.

The Constitution gives Congress responsibility for getting the census right. No one benefits from a failed census, but certain populations and communities are at greater risk of being missed than others, including low income households in rural and urban areas, young children, people of color, and immigrants.

We also ask you to oppose any amendments that would:

  • shift funds from the Census Bureau to other programs;
  • undermine a high-quality American Community Survey (the ongoing part of the decennial census). The ACS is the only source of comprehensive, comparable data for every community in the country, including rural and less populous areas, and for smaller population groups such as veterans and persons with disabilities. Businesses and entrepreneurs, states and localities, nonprofits and service providers, and Congress itself all rely on ACS data to make prudent decisions and investments; and
  • add untested questions to the 2020 Census or ACS.

Thank you for your consideration of our request and concerns.