December 2015 Update

1) Fiscal Year 2016 funding for 2020 Census and the ACS: Three months after the start of the fiscal year on October 1st, Congress is poised to vote on a final omnibus appropriations bill for FY2016. The measure rolls the 12 regular appropriations bills into one bill, doling out funds to federal agencies and programs in line with higher spending caps set by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. In the meantime, the federal government has been operating under a series of Continuing Resolutions (CR) that fund agencies at last year’s (FY2015) levels.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (H.R. 2029) funds the Census Bureau at $1.37 billion, $130 million below the President’s budget request of $1.5 billion, but well above the levels approved by the House and Senate earlier in the year. The chart below shows specific funding levels for the Census Bureau’s two main accounts. Significantly, the omnibus bill does not specify (or restrict) funding levels for activities within each account, giving the bureau flexibility on how to apply its funding allocation.

House Bill
(+/- from request)
Senate Bill
(+/- from request)
Omnibus Bill
(+/- from request)
2020 Census Program
(Decennial Census)
$919.3m $600m
Specified (NS)
2020 Census $662.6m $400m
(capped in committee rpt)
ACS $256.8m $200m
(capped in committee rpt)
Geographic Support $81.1m $58.2m
CEDCaP $76.3m $59.8m
(reduced further by unspecified amt
due to floor funding cuts?)
Periodic Censuses & Programs (PCP)
$1.22b $730.7m
(Note: House further reduced
PCP funding by $117.3m thru amendments, making line item distributions uncertain)
Current Surveys & Programs
$277.9m $261m
Census Bureau total $1.499b $992m

The allocation for the Periodic Censuses account is about 70% of the requested increase, so there will be some consequences for programs (not all of which, such as the 2017 Economic Census, are shown in the table). But given the proposed draconian cuts in both the House and Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bills, we are relieved that the final number for Periodic Censuses is only about 10% below the President’s request for that account.

Also noteworthy: the Omnibus bill does not include language in the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill (the “Poe amendment”) that would have made response to the ACS voluntary!

Congress is scheduled to vote on the final FY2016 appropriations bill this week.

2) 2020 Census update: The Census Bureau released a draft RFP for the 2020 Census Integrated Communications Contract, the massive effort to build awareness and promote participation in the census through advertising, partnerships, and outreach activities. The RFP and tentative contract schedule are available online.

The Census Project will hold a conference call for stakeholders in January (details to follow soon), to discuss appropriations issues and key milestones for 2016. The President will release his Fiscal Year 2017 budget request for federal agencies and programs the first week in February.

We thank everyone for your strong advocacy in support of the 2020 Census and ACS. Clearly, our collective efforts were meaningful and helped avert a funding disaster and collapse of the ACS yet again! We look forward to our continued collaboration in the new year. Until then, we wish everyone a happy, peaceful holiday season!