With the decennial headcount just about to start, Congress finally delivered full funding to the Census Bureau for Fiscal Year 2020.

The House of Representatives passed a "minibus" appropriations bill (H.R. 1158) on December 17, 2019. The Senate followed suit on December 19 and the President signed it into law on December 20. The legislation, which funds much of the federal government for the remainder of FY20, included nearly $6.7 billion for the 2020 Census (and nearly $7.6 billion for the Census Bureau overall).

Howard Fienberg, VP Advocacy for the Insights Association, commended Congress and the Trump Administration for striking a deal to complete the 2020 Census. "The certainty of necessary full-year funding for the 2020 Census comes late in the game, with the counting about to begin, but better late than never."

As the Insights Association pointed out in a letter on December 6 with more than 200 other organizations and companies, time is up: "Major census operations have already begun and critical final steps— from recruiting and screening staff, to verifying addresses, to finalizing outreach and advertising plans — are finished or underway."

The final 2020 Census funding level for FY20 is:

  • the same as the temporary level set by the previous Continuing Resolution;
  • the same as passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in the fall;
  • $1.4 billion more than that requested by the White House ($5.3 billion);
  • and $800 million below the House-passed CJS Appropriations level ($7.5 billion).

On top of the funding bill's contribution is more than a billion dollars in funds carried over from FY2018 (despite Congressional direction to spend it in FY19).

The full funding provided by H.R. 1158 should let the Census Bureau reduce the risks of the threats that could submarine the 2020 Census, like hurricanes and tornadoes, cybersecurity attacks, IT failures, political controversies, or failure of new untested counting methodologies for rural and remote areas. With the certainy of full-year funding and no lingering fears of a government shutdown, the Bureau can dive into final preparations, major operations, and expanded outreach to hard-to-count communities.

Fienberg concluded that a lot of work remains ahead: "Now, we actually have to count everyone. A decade of preparations and testing (and, thanks to funding shortfalls, a lack of testing in key areas) will come to fruition in America's largest peacetime mobilization. The Insights Association has lobbied hard to get us to this point because the marketing research and data analytics industry can't conduct representative research studies without the most accurate census data as a statistical benchmark. We will continue the battle in the 2020s as well!"