Users Ask for Census Budget Boost

By: - May 2, 2018 12:00 am

Makeshift homes in border areas called colonias, like this one near Alamo, Texas, are among the places where it’s difficult to get an accurate census count.

Eric Gay/AP

A coalition of state and city census data users is asking Congress to spend more on the 2020 count, which is critical to state and local funding.

The letter asks for another .85 billion over the next two years, about 27 percent more than the Trump administration’s request for .82 billion. The money would go to hire 76,000 people in local offices around the country to help check addresses, prepare computer systems, and start public outreach needed to encourage participation.

Underfunding and an untested new question on citizenship threaten the accuracy of the count, the letter says.

It calls 2019 “a critical year on the path toward the decennial census—our nation’s largest, most complex peacetime mobilization,” and notes that billion in federal funding will be based on the count. 

The prospect of underfunding had prompted several states to gear up activities like address-checking that can help the census workers find people in rural areas, makeshift border settlements known as colonias, trailer parks and other hard-to-count places. Cities and states are desperate to avoid undercounts because billions in federal funding is tied to population.

The letter released Wednesday is addressed to members of the House and Senate committees that began 2019 budget deliberations on the census budget this month. In a statement, Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said the bureau will recruit 300,000 “partners” next year to help encourage participation in hard-to-count areas.

The Census Project is a coalition of census data users in business, government and nonprofits which includes the National Conference of State Legislatures, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.