In testimony submitted to the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee on March 13, 2020, the Insights Assocition called for Congress to provide the Census Bureau with “at least $1.681 billion in the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) CJS Appropriations legislation.” The President’s Budget requested $1.672 billion for the Bureau in FY 21.
The funding level for the Census Bureau in FY20 (the current fiscal year) is $7.574 billion, and according to the Insights Association, the leading nonprofit association representing the marketing research and data analytics industry, “the drop in spending from year 10 of a decennial cycle to year 1 of the next is mostly on par with the FY21 request.”
The requested Census Bureau funding “will prove essential not just in the completion of the 2020 Census (which stretched into FY21), but to support the Census Bureau’s overall operations and the ongoing American Community Survey (ACS, formerly known as the census long form), as well as start the decade of preparations for the 2030 Census.”
IA warned appropriators that “Congress cannot afford to take the details of Census Bureau appropriations lightly,” since FY21 is “scheduled to feature important Census Bureau activities, including:
- Processing 20202 Census data results and sharing it with the President for apportionment purposes by December 31, 2020, and then to the states by April 1, 2021 and the public by December 2021.
- Conducting coverage and quality operations, including the 2020 Census post-enumeration survey;
- Closing down 2020 Census field operations and decommissioning related equipment and devices;
- Launching the Frames initiative, which will integrate data on persons, places, and the economy for use in all Census Bureau surveys, censuses, and official products;
- Conducting research on financially sustainable collection methods or alternative sources of comparable data on the economic well-being of Americans and program participation as part of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP);
- Establishing an enterprise-wide capability to expand the use of administrative records to improve sample survey operations, data quality, and data products and continuing support for the Administrative Records Clearinghouse; and
- Developing and implementing tools and software as part of the agency’s avoidance disclosure (data confidentiality) activities.”
IA admitted that there is daylight between the Trump Administration’s budget request and IA’s, but only of $9.135 million, which is “the amount that the White House recommended removing from the Current Surveys and Programs account for the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). While not a high priority for IA members, the fact that the Administration in its Congressional Justification considered SIPP ‘crucial to the measurement of the effectiveness of existing Federal, state, and local programs’ and ‘the major source of information on the economic wellbeing of Americans over time’ suggests that the funding should not be reduced.” (See page CEN-36 of the Census Bureau FY 2021 Congressional Budget Justification). Per the White House budget request: “The data are used to estimate future costs and coverage for government programs, such as food stamps, and to provide improved statistics on the distribution of income in the country. In FY 2021, this survey will provide a broader context for analysis by adding questions on a variety of topics not covered in the core section, such as childcare, wealth, program eligibility, child support, utilization and cost of health care, disability, school enrollment, taxes, and annual income.”
Finally, the Insights Association "remains focused on current Census Bureau spending levels,” since the biggest portion of 2020 Census spending is occurring right now, amidst a coronavirus crisis that will challenge the Census Bureau’s ability to get out the count as much as anything. We also expressed concern that “the White House seems determined to try to carry over more than $1 billion into FY21,” which they may end up needing to spend. IA urged appropriators “to keep close watch on 2020 Census operations and spending plans, especially now with the cascade of coronavirus uncertainties hitting just as self-response goes live.”