December 2017 Update

FY 2018 Census Budget: Congress Kicks the Can Down the Road—Again!

Despite two attempts to enact a final federal budget for FY 2018 in December, Congress failed and was stalemated again. Caught in the middle was the FY 2018 Census Bureau budget.

The Census Project directed a letter to congressional appropriators in early December noting that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had requested an additional $187 million in funding for the Census Bureau this fiscal year. The Census Project and others (see below) endorsed the request, but believe this request is too low “to ensure the Bureau can support essential IT planning and development activities as well as fully implement the 2018 End-To-End readiness Test in Providence, Rhode Island.”

And, more than 20 business and industry associations, led by the Insights Association, the National Association of Realtors and the National Homebuilders Association, sent a letter to congressional leaders endorsing the $187 million Administration request.

Then, on December 21, Congress passed another short-term funding measure for the entire federal budget, including the Census Bureau. This third Continuing Resolution (CR) lasts through January 19, 2018.

The newest CR maintains a limited anomaly for the Census Bureau, allowing the agency to spend at a faster rate than normally allowed in order to keep 2020 Census planning activities at a higher level. But, this is only a temporary measure.

In response, on December 21, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and 23 other Democratic senators sent a letter to the Senate appropriations leaders urging the FY 2018 funding levels the Administration requested plus “sufficient funds to address concerns with the Census Bureau’s current deficiencies.”

News You Can Use

ProPublica reported on December 29 on a Department of Justice letter to the Census Bureau requesting that it add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census form, saying the “data is critical to enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.” This bizarre proposal was quickly denounced by census advocates.

Also, Dr. William O’Hare recently released a new study detailing the challenges rural America will be facing in the 2020 Census in Hard-to-Count (HTC) areas of the country.

Dr. O’Hare’s research says 79 percent of all counties listed by the Census Bureau as HTC are in rural areas. These HTC populations include: blacks in the rural South, Hispanics in the rural Southwest, American Indians living on reservations, and Alaskan Natives, residents of deep Appalachia, and migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

And, there was significant news coverage of the perils the 2020 Census faces due to funding shortfalls.

Finally, a blog post authored by Diana Elliott of the Urban Institute and posted on the Census Project website on December 21 contains a quick, concise summary of the stakes involved in a fair and accurate 2020 Census.

Happy New Year!