October 2016 Update



Final FY2017 Census Bureau funding decisions loom — Thank you to the more than 50 organizations that signed a Census Project letter to members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittees, urging FY2017 funding for the Census Bureau as close to the President’s budget request as possible, especially for 2020 Census planning and the American Community Survey (ACS). The letter is posted on our website.

The Administration requested $1.634 billion for the Census Bureau for the fiscal year that started October 1st. The request included $778 million for the 2020 Census, an increase of $179 million over FY2016, and $251 million for the American Community Survey, $20 million more than FY2016. The House Appropriations Committee allocated $1.47 billion; the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed $1.52 billion. Neither chamber completed action on the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill before Congress adjourned for the elections in late September. Like most federal agencies, the Census Bureau is operating under a temporary funding measure (a Continuing Resolution, or CR) that limits spending to last year’s (FY2016) funding levels. The CR expires on December 9th. When the lame-duck Congress reconvenes on November 14, high on its list of “must complete” items are full-year appropriations bills for FY2017. Congress also will organize leadership positions and committees for the 115th Congress.

Congress could finish the FY2017 budget process in several ways. It could pass each remaining appropriations bill separately, an unlikely outcome given the tight timetable. It could wrap all remaining appropriations bills (11 out of 12 regular bills) into one massive funding measure, called an omnibus bill, or combine several bills into several smaller packages, called “minibus” bills. Other scenarios would be especially problematic for the Census Bureau, as they essentially involve “kicking the can down the road” on resolving final budget numbers for the current fiscal year. Lawmakers could pass a second CR extending last year’s funding levels for several more months, allowing the 115th Congress to make final decisions. Or they could pass a “year long” CR that funds most of the federal government at FY2016 levels for the remainder of FY2017 (through Sept. 30, 2017). With 2020 Census activities on a continued ramp up, flat funding into the second fiscal quarter or for the entire fiscal year would seriously jeopardize thorough 2020 Census preparations and/or other major Census Bureau programs, such as the ACS or 2017 Economic Census. The bureau would need an “anomaly” — that is, an exception to flat funding — in any future FY2017 CR to avoid major disruptions to the 2020 Census planning schedule or constraints on the scope of other vital programs.


Updated 2020 Census Operational Plan released — The Census Bureau has released the second version of the 2020 Census Operational Plan, first published in October 2015. The plan covers all aspects of the 34 major 2020 Census operations, documenting the current design and identifying pending decisions, as well as significant issues and risks to the census, to inform the work of 2020 Census managers, staff, and contractors. “Version 2.0” of the plan is available on the bureau’s website.

The updated document reflects changes to operational plans through August 2016. The Census Bureau will continue to release Detailed Operational Plans for key components of the enumeration, such as Internet self-response, paper questionnaire data capture, and in-person visits to unresponsive households (Nonresponse Follow-up, or NRFU), throughout 2017.

Census Bureau cancels site portion of 2017 census tests amid unresolved FY2017 funding — Citing budget uncertainties for Fiscal Year 2017, the Census Bureau announced on October 18 that it is canceling the 2017 Puerto Rico Census Test and the 2017 Census Test on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota and the Colville Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land in Washington state. “Based on what we know now,” Census Director John Thompson wrote in a blog, “the proposed funding levels require us to prioritize other activities in 2017 rather than expend the resources necessary to conduct the two field tests we had planned for 2017.” The bureau said it would consider adding these sites to the 2018 End-to-End Census Test, currently planned for Pierce County, WA, Providence County, RI, and the Bluefield-Beckley-Oak Hill, WV area.

Assuming adequate FY2017 funding, the bureau will conduct one portion of the 2017 Census Test: a national self-response-only sample of 80,000 housing units, with oversampling in areas with high concentrations of American Indian and Alaska Native populations. Key goals for the National Sample self-response test (April 1, 2017 “Census Day”) include evaluation of Internet data collection using Cloud technology, processing of Internet responses without a unique geographic code in real time, Spanish language Internet response option, and the telephone assistance and data collection operation (Census Questionnaire Assistance). Ten to 13 percent of addresses will receive bilingual (English-Spanish) letters, postcards, and questionnaires. The Census Bureau also will test, for the first time, proposed new tribal enrollment questions. The bureau will reinterview 15,000 households in the sample to evaluate the accuracy of the new questions.

Census Bureau seeks comments on AdCan operation for 2018 End-to-End Census Test — The Census Bureau published a Federal Register notice outlining plans for the address canvassing (AdCan) operation to support the 2018 End-to-End Census Test, akin to a dress rehearsal for the 2020 enumeration. AdCan is the first major activity for the 2018 census test; it will start next summer. Comments are due by December 19, 2016.

The bureau has been researching and testing significant changes to the traditional AdCan operation, in order to contain costs. For the 2020 Census, roughly 75 percent of the nation’s 142 million addresses (located in 11 million census blocks) will be verified and updated “in-office” using aerial imagery, administrative records (government databases), and third-party commercial data. The remaining addresses will require verification and investigation “in-field” by temporary address listers, an operation that will start in Spring 2019. In-Office AdCan for the 2020 Census began in September 2015.

The 2017 Address Canvassing Test in Buncombe County, NC, and parts of St. Louis, MO, is taking place now. In-office procedures for the test began last spring; in-field canvassing started earlier this month. The bureau will release a report analyzing the test results in April 2017.

REMINDER: Census Advisory Committee to meet this week — The Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations will hold its Fall plenary meeting on November 3-4, 2016, at agency headquarters in Suitland, MD. The meeting is open to the public and will be webcast live. The Federal Register notice announcing the meeting gives more information on how to access meeting materials and view the proceedings.


New Jersey lawmaker likely to assume House Appropriations chairmanship — POLITICO reported that Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11) is likely to become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in the 115th Congress if Republicans maintain their majority status in the chamber. The 11-term lawmaker currently chairs the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and is an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War. Current full committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) is facing a term-limit on committee chairs and will not seek a waiver of the Republican Caucus rule.

Rep. Frelinghuysen served on the Commerce, Justice, and Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee as its ranking minority member in the 110th Congress, when Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives.