Business Groups Warn Congress of Peril in Census Planning

For Release
Tuesday, April 25, 2017


A coalition of 11 national groups representing the American business, research and marketing sector sent a letter today to House and Senate leaders of the Appropriations committees urging full funding of the U.S. Census Bureau’s request for the balance of the FY17 budget cycle and for the Fiscal 2018 cycle. The organizations warned Congress that, “… failure to fund this cyclical ramp-up for the 2020 Census would severely jeopardize the fairness and accuracy of the next decennial census.”

The Census Bureau is facing a daunting array of workload challenges between now and the end of the decade, including the 2017 Economic Census, the annual American Community Survey of about four million households a year, and end-to-end testing of new designs for the 2020 decennial Census, which will feature the first ever on-line response option. The letters’ signers told Congress that, “…the budget for FY 2018 therefore must provide another substantial increase in funds over the FY2017 amounts originally requested.”

Census observers have been concerned that Congress has yet to grasp the significant challenges the Bureau faces at this point in the decennial planning cycle and why Census needs an increase in funds now to ensure a successful 2020 national head count. Various news organizations over the last few months have reported that a wide range of organizations dependent upon Census data for business needs, state and local government planning, and economic development were increasingly worried that Congress was overlooking the need to fully fund Census budget requests.

One of the co-signers of the letter, Howard Fienberg, Director of Government Affairs at Insights Association, which represents the marketing research and analytics industry explained the challenge to the Washington Post last week. “It’s very easy to open a new business in New York City, but putting it in some small town in West Virginia is much more difficult,” Fienberg said. “You have to have really rock solid data to be able to make the case,” he said. “When we have uncertainty, business goes nowhere.”

Current funding for the government is set to expire on April 28th unless Congress acts to extend the current continuing resolution, or passes an omnibus appropriations measure for the balance of FY 2017. Congress must approve the FY 2018 appropriations by October 1st this year, on the eve of several key Census field tests targeting 700,000 households in Rhode Island, Washington state, and West Virginia to finalize operational designs for the 2020 count.