On May 1, Congress announced the details of a bipartisan budget deal, H.R. 244, to keep most of the federal government funded through the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, which ends on September 30. On May 3, the House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 309-118, while the Senate quickly passed it on May 4 by a vote of 79-18. The bill funds the Census Bureau at a level closest to the House Appropriations Committee-passed level of $1.47 billion, with $270 million for Current Surveys and Programs (ongoing demographic and economic surveys) and $1.2 billion for Periodic Censuses and Programs, which includes the 2020 Census, American Community Survey (ACS), and 2017 Economic Census, as well as the enterprise-wide IT architecture that will support the 2020 Census (CEDCaP).
While the omnibus does technically provide the Bureau with a 7.3 percent increase over FY 2016, the increase does not reflect fully the agency’s needs in FY 2017. The previous Administration had requested $1.6 billion for the Census Bureau in FY 2017. The Senate Appropriations Committee came closer to the Administration’s request, providing $1.5 billion, a level which the previous Administration had said in its Statement of Administration Policy was still “inadequate” to support 2020 Census planning and would “require unsustainable reductions” to the ACS and Economic Census. The Periodic Censuses allocation in the final FY 2017 omnibus bill is $148 million below the request. The full Census Bureau appropriation is $164 million below the request. The omnibus does not modify existing report language in the House Senate FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science committee bills nor add any new language.
Census stakeholders are eagerly awaiting an impact statement from the Census Bureau to understand more fully how the reduced FY 2017 funding level will be absorbed and impact not only Census 2020 preparations, but also other important programs and surveys.
The Trump Administration is expected to submit its FY 2018 budget request to Congress the week of May 22. As you may recall, on March 16, the Administration submitted a skeletal budget to Congress, which contained few details of its FY 2018 spending priorities. While this initial submission lacked substance, it did propose providing the Census Bureau with $1.5 billion, $100 million over the agency’s FY 2016 funding. However, this level is still well below what the agency needs in FY 2018. In fact, the funding level proposed in the president’s “skinny budget” ($1.5 billion) is $135 million below the Bureau’s FY 2017 request. Contrast this amount with the 25 percent funding increase that the Bush Administration requested between FY 2007 and FY 2008 for the Census Bureau’s ramp-up to Census 2010. Fiscal Year 2018 is an equally important year, leading up to Census 2020 in that the Bureau plans to conduct an End-to-End Readiness Test in three areas of the country—the only opportunity to evaluate the Bureau’s proposed technical innovations in true census-like environments (urban, suburban and rural areas).
The Census Project recently published a chart depicting how the annual funding levels leading up to Census 2020 compares with trends in the previous decade.
In April, The Census Project released and/or promoted several letters in support of funding the decennial census and ACS.
Letters to Congress in support of funding Census 2020 and ACS in FY 2017 and 2018
National business organizations’ letter on appropriations for Census 2020 and ACS in FY 2017 and FY 2018
Letter from the nation’s major state/local government organizations on appropriations for Census 2020 and ACS in FY 2017 and FY 2018
Letter from Members of Congress to House Appropriations Committee
In April, over 40 members of Congress signed a “Dear Colleague” letter sponsored by Congresswoman Maloney, Congressman Ellison, and Congressman Connelly in support of funding the Census Bureau in FY 2018. The letter is posted at:
Rural demography congressional briefing—On April 3, the Population Association of America (PAA) sponsored a congressional briefing, “Small Towns/Big Changes: The Shifting Demographics of Rural America.” An expert panel of PAA members presented an overview of shifting socioeconomic and demographic changes in rural America followed by speakers who addressed specific issues, including the impact of immigration, the needs of veterans, and mortality and health trends, regarding the rural U.S. The briefing, which was attended by over 70 individuals from congressional offices and federal agencies and featured many uses of ACS data, was cosponsored by eight national organizations. A summary of the event, along with the speakers’ slides and pictures, is posted on the PAA home page.
Capitol Hill briefing on ensuring a fair and accurate 2020 Census—On May 25 at 9:30 a.m. in 2103 Rayburn, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in cooperation with the Congressional Tri-Caucus, is sponsoring a briefing, “Ensuring a Fair and Accurate 2020 Census: Challenges for Communities of Color.” The briefing will be a good opportunity to learn more about the challenges that the 2020 Census faces and the steps Congress can take to ensure a successful enumeration.