November 2016 Update


White House seeks exemption from continued flat-funding for 2020 Census/ACS — With time running out on a temporary Fiscal Year 2017 funding measure, Republican House and Senate leaders have decided to offer a second stop-gap bill (called a Continuing Resolution, or CR) that would extend last year’s (FY2016) funding levels through the end of March, essentially letting the new Administration and next (115th) Congress make final decisions on FY2017 spending levels. The current CR expires on December 9th.

The Obama Administration has requested an exemption from continued flat-funding, called an “anomaly,” for one of two main Census Bureau budget accounts, Periodic Censuses and Programs (PCP); it has proposed an annual “spend rate” of $1.192 billion through the second quarter of FY2017. Without an anomaly, the Bureau could be facing cost overruns in IT system development and abandonment of new, cost-saving methods. The PCP account covers the 2020 Census, American Community Survey (ACS), quinquennial (2017) Economic Census, and several broader activities (e.g. IT systems; geographic information) that support all of the cyclical Census Bureau programs.

Dozens of stakeholder organizations signed a Census Project letter to the bipartisan congressional and Appropriations Committee leadership, urging support for the anomaly. Two of the letters are posted in the Letters section of our website. We also urge stakeholders to contact their own Representatives, Senators, and other congressional allies, to amplify the message in the coalition letter.


House subcommittee reviews 2016 Census Test, IT planning for 2020 — The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations, held a hearing on November 16 to review the results of the 2016 Census Test and evaluate efforts to ensure on-time IT system development and cybersecurity for the 2020 Census. The site test took place last spring (with an April 1, 2016 “Census Day”) in parts of Los Angeles County and Harris County, Texas.

Census Director John Thompson, Census Bureau CIO Kevin Smith, and Robert Goldenkoff and David Powner from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ watchdog agency, testified at the hearing. Witness statements and the hearing webcast are available online. GAO auditors continued to express concern about the Census Bureau’s ability to test all new IT systems before the census, while the Bureau assured lawmakers that it was on schedule to deploy and fully evaluate data collection and processing systems.

Commerce Department issues final notice for 2020 Census LUCA program — The Commerce Department published a Federal Register Notice on November 7, outlining the Census Bureau’s intent to conduct the 2020 Census Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Operation. The bureau is required by law (Title 13, U.S.C.) to conduct the LUCA program before each census. The comment period runs for 30 days.

The LUCA program gives localities an important opportunity to help ensure a comprehensive, up-to-date address list for the 2020 Census. State and local governments can review preliminary address lists and maps and offer additions, deletions, and corrections. The 2020 Census LUCA operation will start in January 2017 with an Advance Notice to all state/local governments. There are five phases to the program, which runs through Spring 2020. The highlight of the program is February through May 2018, when participating governments will review the materials for their jurisdictions and send their updates to the Census Bureau.

Federal Register notice outlines revised 2017 Census Test plans — The Census Bureau and Commerce Department issued identical Federal Register notices on December 1, summarizing final plans for the 2017 Census Test. Comments are due within 30 days. The Bureau announced in October that it was canceling the on-site portions of the test on American Indian reservations and tribal lands in Washington and along the North and South Dakota border due to funding uncertainty for the current fiscal year.

The modified test is a national, self-response only sample of 80,000 addresses, with oversampling in areas with high concentrations of American Indian or Alaska Native populations. The Bureau also will select 15,000 addresses for re-interview to evaluate responses to a new tribal enrollment question. (The Census Bureau estimates that 36,000 households will self-respond, while 7,500 households will participate in the reinterview.) The 2017 operation also will integrate IT systems to be used for the self-response phase, including a Spanish language Internet response option and telephone assistance and response option (Census Questionnaire Assistance).


Trump announces Commerce Secretary and Deputy Secretary picks — The President-Elect announced his intention to nominate billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to be Secretary of Commerce and Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, to be Deputy Secretary of Commerce. The U.S. Census Bureau is part of the Commerce Department.

The Census Director is a presidential appointee who, under the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-166), may be nominated and confirmed for up to two five-year terms. A Director must have “demonstrated” experience managing a large organization and experience with data collection, analysis, and use. Census Director John Thompson was nominated by President Obama to serve out the term (under the new law) of Director Robert Groves (2009-2012), which ends on December 31, 2016. In the event of a vacancy, the law allows a Director to serve until he/she or a successor is re/appointed, but not for more than one year past the end of a term. A President may remove a Census Director with at least 60 days notice to Congress.

And, some holiday census cheer… — As we look forward to the holidays (of various faiths), we thought you would enjoy this “Advent Reflection” blog by Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, with NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, on the importance of the census. Sister Campbell eloquently captures the fundamental reason an accurate count is essential: “The census seems quite mundane and individualistic, but it is a communal act. To be counted means that each individual is accorded the same dignity.” Thank you, Sister Campbell, NETWORK Lobby, and all of our committed stakeholder organizations.