Coalition Urges Congress to Boost Funding for Census Modernization

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A group of Census experts and data users are asking appropriators to provide $2 billion in funding to the Census Bureau in fiscal 2022.

A coalition of 55 national, state and local organizations are calling on Congressional appropriators to significantly increase funding for the U.S. Census Bureau in an effort to modernize technology and prepare for the 2030 Census.

In a letter to House and Senate appropriators Tuesday, The Census Project asked for $2 billion in funding for the Census Bureau in fiscal 2022, a $335 million increase in funding over the agency’s fiscal 2021 budget of $1.65 billion.

The letter comes as the Census Bureau is in the late stages of finishing its 2020 Census, which faced numerous challenges and some delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

“The Census Bureau is at an important crossroads: still resolving the outcome of the 2020 Census, while simultaneously pursuing groundbreaking technical innovations and preparing for the 2030 Census,” the letter states. “In FY 2022, Congress has a unique opportunity to initiate multi-year funding for the Bureau, providing the agency with resources that it needs to not only sustain and strengthen its mission but also to recover from years of postponed enhancements and pursue numerous necessary operational improvements.”

The letter suggests increasing Census Bureau funding in part to allow the agency to invest in “big data technology and methodology” to reduce the burden on respondents and realign the Bureau’s existing data sets into universal “frames.” The Frames Initiative aims to make the Census data available for use by all department data products, surveys and programs.

“A significant increase in funding for the Census Frames initiative, which was only funded at about $12.7 million in FY 2021, will allow the Census Bureau to reduce duplication, increase ease and usability of federal statistical data, enhance the quality of Bureau products, facilitate analysis of the U.S. population and economy, and ensure that the federal government can utilize administrative data, responsibly and appropriately, to maximum advantage before burdening survey respondents,” the letter states.

Additional funding would also increase the agency’s ability to produce higher quality data on the nation’s changing demographic characteristics, including through enhancing the American Community Survey. ACS data are widely used by state and local government planners for planning purposes in between the Bureau’s Decennial Censuses, which are undertaken once every decade. 

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