Updates on Census Funding and Johnson Amendment from the Hill

Johnson Amendment Update:

United Philanthropy Forum have received multiple confirmations that there will be no bill appended to the budget that concerns any changes to the Johnson Amendment.

Census Funding Update:

Here is the latest from the Hill from United Philanthropy Forum's colleague Terri Ann Lowenthal and the Funders Census Initiative:

The House Appropriations Committee released the omnibus ("Consolidated") appropriations bill that Congress must now pass (House, then Senate) to fund the federal government for the rest of Fiscal Year 2018 (which runs from October 1, 2017 - September 30, 2018). The current (5th) stop-gap funding measure (Continuing Resolution, or CR) expires at the end of Friday, so it's possible that lawmakers will pass another short-term bill to give themselves a few days to review and vote on the omnibus bill, which the president must sign.

 

The bottom line:

The bill allocates $2.814 billion for the Census Bureau. That amount is:

  1. +$1.344 billion increase over FY2017 funding level of $1.470 billion
  2. +$1.130 billion more than the administration's adjusted FY2018 budget request of $1.684 billion
  3. +$966 million more than our stakeholder recommended funding level of "at least $1.848 billion"

 

HELPFUL DETAILS:

  1. Of the total appropriation for the Census Bureau ...
  • $2.544 billion is for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account, which includes the 2020 Census, American Community Survey, Economic Census, and other cyclical programs and support activities (such as Geographic programs).
  • $270 million is for the Current Surveys and Programs account, which covers important ongoing demographic and economic surveys. We recommended an increase of $24 million over the president's FY2018 budget request for CSP, and the committee accepted our recommendation, which equals the FY2017 appropriation for this account. (Some of you rely on data from these surveys, which include the Current Population Survey.)

 

  1. How the money will be spent ...

The report that accompanies the omnibus bill provides more direction as to how the "extra" funding should be spent. The "report language," as it is called, is in line with our suggestions for expanding outreach and promotion, although vague on expanded field infrastructure ('footprint in the field'). Highlights of the Appropriations Committees instructions:

  • Includes the $50 million contingency fund the Commerce Secretary requested (and we recommended), but that OMB declined to include in the president's budget request
  • Directs "partnership and communications activities" at level of staffing and effort no less than at the same point in the 2010 Census cycle (FY2008)
  • Directs the Bureau to notify the committee 15 days in advance of any expenditures above the original spending plan (administration's adjusted funding request). In other words, the committee wants to know how the bureau will spend the money that is over and above what the administration originally requested - the extra $1.130 billion.
  • Requests information on status of IT systems and cybersecurity plans.

 

United Philanthropy Forum provided the following Note of Caution:

The report language is not as proscriptive as I had expected, in terms of how the additional money will be spent. There is one important additional, though somewhat cryptic, point in the report language: It appears that the committee is somewhat "forward funding" resources needed in FY2019 and FY2020. Appropriators note that 70% of census lifecycle costs are projected to be spent in FY2019 and FY2020. The bill, they said, provides half of the amount needed for the 2020 Census in those fiscal years. That means we will have to work hard to ensure that the FY2019 funding level truly is adequate to address contemporary needs and current risks and threats.

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