Federal Choices Endangering Inclusive and Accurate Census

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The federal government’s preparations for the 2020 Census are falling short. There’s not enough money. This week’s approval of yet another short term, continuing resolution budget fix for the current fiscal year 2018 budget is part of the problem. Not only has Congress failed to appropriate enough money to get the job done, without a regular budget the Census Bureau has not been able to do timely planning, development of new census-taking tools, or open enough field offices and add staff needed to get to work in communities. Even while the 2018 budget remains unresolved, the start of the 2019 budgeting process is weeks away.  The Census Bureau needs to see its budget doubled. See the attached summary of the Census Bureau's mounting challenges.

Money woes are not the only problem. The Trump administration’s refugee and immigration policies and rhetoric have created great fear and is discouraging interest in being counted as reported in ProPublica.  In a blatant move that has been widely criticized including through a Star Tribune editorial, the Washington Post and others reported the Department of Justice has specifically asked the Census Bureau to add a documented status question to the 2020 Census.  Countering the administration's action, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton announced plans to introduce a bill prohibiting the additiona of a legal status question to the 2020 Census.  (MCF is asking members of MN's congressional delegation to co-author this bill.)

Concerns about politicization of the process are heightened as it becomes more apparent, as reported in Politico that the Trump Administration is looking to fill the Census Bureau’s leadership gap with an appointee who does not have the right experience and is most know for his partisan work on redistricting.

Money shortages. Politicizing the census process. As if these problems were not bad enough, as reported in the New York Times, the Census Bureau is also grappling with access and security challenges for this first ever “digital census.” The budget challenges for the current fiscal year and forthcoming 2019 fiscal years are laid our in The Census Project's January update.

Still, states and localities need to be and are actually doing their part to gear up for the 2020 Census.  Governing magazine describes what they are doing and how they are coping with the problems at the federal level. In Minnesota, the Pioneer Press reports there’s a sense that things are on track for a fully inclusive and accurate count.

MCF is advocating for a fully inclusive and accurate census count in Minnesota in 2020 by coordinating the Minnesota Census Mobilization Parnership. Join the Partnership to stay routinely informed and find out how you can help with the 2020 count in MN.

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