State and Local Leaders Urge Congress to Fully Fund Census

For Release
Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Organizations representing the nation’s Governors, Mayors, County executives, state legislators and local governments 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, “…insufficient funding would degrade this irreplaceable statistical information that state and local leaders need to make informed decisions for their citizens and communities.”

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 letter was signed by the CEO or Executive Directors of the National Governor’s Association, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Managers Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Council of State Governments, often called the “big seven” of state and local government leadership.

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.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of National Association of Latino Elected Official (NALEO) Educational Fund, a nonprofit that promotes Latino participation in government last week told the Washington Post, “The bureau needs the money now,” he said. “It can’t be doing 2020 blindly. It should be taking the time to do the testing now, to work out all the kinks (and) make sure the bureau gets it right, because there are no do-overs after 2020.”

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, one 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.