October 2017 Update

As you may recall, the Trump Administration requested only a $27 million increase in the FY 2018 Census Bureau budget, a mere 2 percent increase over FY 2017 funding of $1.47 billion. Census advocates labeled the request as “woefully inadequate.” Meanwhile, the Census Bureau announced that, due to lack of funding, two of the three sites chosen for the 2018 End to End Readiness test, West Virginia and Washington state, would be cancelled. And, the bureau said, the final remaining test in Providence, Rhode Island, in the spring of 2018 would be cut back and not include either a partnership or advertising component.

To make matters worse for the Census Bureau, talks stalled in Congress on the overall federal budget and the Census Bureau was forced to live under a flat-lined FY 2017 budget of $1.47 billion until the Continuing Resolution (CR) is resolved in early December. But, an “anomaly” to the CR will allow the Census Bureau to accelerate spending funds that are already appropriated through the life of the CR to assist 2020 Census planning. And, former Census Director John Thompson pointed out in congressional testimony that the lifecycle costs of the vital information technology (IT) program had increased by over $300 million.

In response to the cost overruns, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross convened an informal panel of experts to produce a revised cost estimate. As a result of this exercise, Secretary Ross recently announced that the Administration is seeking an additional $187 million for the decennial in FY 2018. Virtually all of the new monies will go towards IT systems development for the 2020 Census. In addition, Secretary Ross explained he was recommending that the overall lifecycle costs for the decennial be increased from $12.3 billion over 10 years to $15.6 billion.

The Census Project believes the new Administration request of FY 2018 is still insufficient, particularly since it does not include enough funds to fund other important activities, including the Partnership Program and advertising campaign. Census advocates are waiting for details of the new $15.3 billion 2020 Census budget to determine if the new lifecycle proposal is enough to ensure a fair and accurate count in 2020.

The details of this budget crisis and its implications for the 2020 count are outlined in a recent ThinkProgress article.

In response to the Administration’s new FY 2018 budget request, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney has introduced legislation (H.R. 4013) to provide the Census Bureau with $1.9 billion in FY 2018–an increase of $251 million above the Administration’s adjusted request, or $438 million more in FY 2018.

Some of the new monies in the Maloney bill would go toward accelerating the Partnership Program and getting the advertising campaign back on track. Former Director Thompson said he believes 100-200 partnership specialists are already needed to go into Hard-To-Count (HTC) communities and neighborhoods to establish relationships with local leaders, churches, businesses, etc., that serve these communities, so these leaders could encourage local residents to participate in the decennial census. Thompson said he believes the 800 partnership specialists eventually deployed nationwide in HTC areas helped cut the undercount in 2010. In its new lifecycle budget, the Trump Administration projects 1,000 partnership specialists for the 2020 Census, but only 40 are presently funded for FY 2018 and it is unclear if they are working full time in HTC areas.

The Census Project and the entire census advocacy community will be working this fall to urge Congress to fully fund preparations in FY 2018 and the rest of the “ramp-up” for the 2020 Census.

News You Can Use

Census advocate Jeff Wice and a group of New York state organizations (Common Cause New York and New York Counts; endorsed by the New York Civic Engagement Table, National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Make the Road New York and the New York Immigration Coalition) have prepared a report detailing the value of the 2020 Census to the state and urging localities to participate in the current address-listing process underway New York.

In California, census expert Bill O’Hare, in conjunction with the Census Project, the Advancement Project, California, and the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, have released a new report on the demographics of the state. The report noted that 25 percent of California’s population is in HTC areas and stressed the importance of providing the resources for a full count.

Finally, on October 30, the Population Association of America, with support from The Census Project, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and other census stakeholder organizations, sponsored a congressional briefing, “Making Kids Count in the Big Count: Census 2020.” The briefing featured Mr. Burton Reist, Chief of Communications, Census Bureau, who provided an update Census 2020 plans and operations, and Dr. William O’Hare who discussed the undercount of young children in past decennial censuses, its implications, and strategies for correcting this matter in Census 2020. A summary of the briefing, the speakers slides, and pictures are posted at: http://www.populationassociation.org/2017/11/01/congressional-briefing-spotlights-how-the-census-undercounts-young-children/.