May 2019 Census Project Update

Fiscal Year 2020 Proposed Budget

On May 22, the House Appropriations Committee considered its version of the Fiscal Year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill, which, among other federal agencies, funds the United States Census Bureau.

Census stakeholders were pleased that the bill included $8.45 billion for the Census Bureau, of which $7.8 billion is slated to support the 2020 Census. The bill also includes a provision precluding the Bureau from using funds to add any question to the 2020 Census that was not included in the 2018 End-to-End Census Test. The language, if ultimately enacted, would prohibit the Administration from including its proposed citizenship question on the 2020 Census. During the committee’s deliberations, Congressman John Rutherford (R-FL) offered an amendment to strike this provision. The amendment spurred a spirited debate in which a number of members, including the CJS Subcommittee Chair Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY), CJS Ranking Member Robert Aderholt (R-AL), and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chair, House Appropriations Committee, expressed their views regarding the proposed citizenship question. The amendment was rejected on a voice vote.

A report accompanying the bill contains numerous census-related provisions, clarifying congressional spending priorities. One of the most striking sections directs the Bureau to spend at least half ($500 million) of the $1 billion in carry over funds that Congress provided the Bureau in FY 2019 and rejects the Administration’s proposal to spend this funding in FY 2020. Further, the report restores funding for the contingency fund that Commerce Secretary Ross requested as part of the 2017 revised Census lifecycle cost estimate. The report also includes language directing the Bureau to prioritize investments in IT infrastructure, cybersecurity, and outreach to hard-to-count populations, particularly through the agency’s proposed Mobile Response Initiative.

The Committee reported the bill favorably by a vote of 30-22. The full House of Representatives may consider the bill sometime in June—most likely as a part of a broader spending measure that will incorporate one or more other appropriations bills.

At press time, the Senate CJS subcommittee had not announced a date for considering its version of the FY 2020 bill.

Citizenship Question

While the public awaits a decision from the Supreme Court in the Department of Commerce vs. New York case, there was breaking news on May 30 regarding the proposed citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Specifically, The New York Times published a story about the role that deceased Republican operative, Thomas Hofeller, played in the Administration’s decision to add the citizenship question. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) coordinated a letter, signed by 13 senators, to the Inspector Generals at the Departments of Justice and Commerce, urging them to investigate Hofeller’s role in the proposed addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census and the Administration’s motivations for requesting the question. In response to the Hofeller story, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion for sanctions with the Southern District of New York, which the U.S. Department of Justice called “frivolous.”

Legislative Activity

In May, numerous hearings and staff briefings were conducted regarding the 2020 Census. The Census Project Co-Directors participated in briefings on both sides of Capitol Hill. Census Project Co-Director Howard Fienberg and Dr. Andrew Reamer, research professor at George Washington University and frequent Census Project contributor, also testified at a May 22 hearing held by the Joint Economic Committee, “The Economic Impacts of the 2020 Census and Business Uses of Federal Data.”

On May 28, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a field hearing in Long Island, New York. The hearing, “Getting Counted: The Importance of the Census to State and Local Communities,” explored 2020 Census preparations and how census data are used by state and local communities.

Resources You Can Use

NCSL has a recorded webinar for state officials to help them get oriented and involved in the 2020 Census.

News You Can Use

Below are several articles posted on The Census Project home page in May. For a complete listing, go to:

Recent Media

How Your Privacy Will Be Protected in the 2020 Census
May 25, 2019

Worries persist despite additional billions for census
Roll Call
May 24, 2019

Census Experts Testify in Congress
May 23, 2019

Republican senator wants U.S. Census to ask about criminal records
May 22, 2019

U.S. Census Vulnerable to Russian Meddling, Top Official Warns
May 20, 2019

States spend big on 2020 census
Tribune News Service
May 19, 2019

Census offices are being cut across the country – and California is losing 24
The Sacramento Bee
May 8, 2019

Citizenship Question

Lawyers: Docs Show Census Changed to Give Republicans Edge
Associated Press
May 31, 2019

Challengers of census citizenship question tell Supreme Court they have new evidence that shows political motivation
May 31, 2019

The Consequences of Asking the Census Citizenship Question
The Wall Street Journal
May 31, 2019

Census citizenship question was crafted to aid white Republicans, files suggest
The Washington Post
May 30, 2019

Deceased G.O.P. Strategist’s Hard Drives Reveal New Details on the Census Citizenship Question
The New York Times
May 30, 2019

Can the census ask if you’re a citizen? Here’s what’s at stake in the Supreme Court battle over the 2020 census
The Conversation
May 29, 2019