Omnibus appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2018, which passed the House today and should pass the Senate shortly, provides an unexpectedly big amount of money for the Census.
Total funding for the Census Bureau for FY18 now amounts to $2.814 billion -- $1.344 billion above the FY17 level, $1.130 billion above the White House's adjusted request for FY18 ($1.684 billion) and nearly a billion more than for which even we originally requested for FY18 ($1.848 billion).
"Congress is finally taking the decennial Census seriously," remarked Howard Fienberg, lobbyist for the Insights Association, the leading nonprofit organization representing the marketing research and analytics industry.
$2.544 billion of this FY18 funding is for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account (including the 2020 Census, American Community Survey (ACS), and Economic Census), and $270 million is for the Current Surveys and Programs account.
The report accompanying the bill indicates that this money includes contingency funding requested by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (and supported by us) to quickly tackle any IT and technical problems in decennial preparation as they arise over the year. It also directs the Bureau to fund the 2020 Census communications and partnership programs "at a level of effort and staffing no less than that conducted during fiscal year 2008 in preparation for the 2010 Decennial Census." The report also references the big plus-up in funds as a form of advance funding for FY19, which may indicate recognition that the FY19 appropriations cycle is likely to lead to another series of continuing resolutions and may similarly drag well into the fiscal year, and so Congress wants to ensure that the Census Bureau has the money necessary to continue decennial preparations without interruption.
The Insights Association advocated throughout the appropriations process, in cooperation with the Census Project coalition, to improve the Census funding situation. We met with many Congressmen, Senators and staff, organized hill days for Census Project stakeholders, led letters from the business community, joined letters to Congress from the Census Project coalition, and helped fight off floor amendments that would have impeded the 2020 Census.
"Our advocacy bore some fruit in the latest continuing resolution, but this final FY18 funding amount is a huge win," said Fienberg. "We deeply appreciate the support shown by both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill."
Accurate Census data are essential to conducting any statistically representative survey or study in the U.S.
Fienberg concluded with a warning: "We only get one shot per decade to accurately count every American. The trickle-down impact of an inaccurate 2020 Census would be severe -- and last the whole decade. With time running short, we must ensure a fair and accurate decennial headcount."