JEC Dems Warn Administration that Loss of Key Census Survey Will Hurt Lawmakers’ Ability to Assess Programs and Spending
WASHINGTON, DC – The Bush administration is being asked to answer questions about the elimination of a widely-used Census survey and its potentially broad impact on lawmakers’ ability to evaluate government programs and spending. Joint Economic Committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and senior House Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), along with 10 colleagues in the House and Senate, have directed their questions about the Census Bureau’s endangered Survey on Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman (letter on SIPP).
The SIPP is the government’s premiere program to assess American living standards and the effectiveness of government programs. The survey tracks issues such as income, health and participation in government programs, and is used by agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services to determine the effectiveness of their programs and direct spending.
“My concern is that the administration has not done its homework on the true impact of eliminating this important survey on American living standards,” said Sen. Reed. “We are being told that Census is trying to make the survey better in the future, but in the meantime government agencies that rely on this survey will lose data critical to projecting costs or anticipating program changes. When the costs of transitioning to a new survey are taken into account, there will be no tangible savings. The Bush administration should continue to conduct this survey until a coherent plan is in place for a new system of data collection on income, wealth, and program dynamics that meets our nation’s policy needs.”
“We want to find out if the Bush administration actually realizes the awful impact that eliminating this program will have,” said Rep. Maloney. “Without SIPP, government spending could become more wasteful because too many programs will be flying blind. Only an administration which has already supported deep cuts to programs serving low-income Americans would so carelessly discard the only reliable data the government collects on poverty and income without something ready to replace it.”
President Bush’s FY2007 budget proposed to eliminate all funding for SIPP, and the lawmakers inquiring are looking for answers as the House and Senate prepare to consider the appropriations process for the Census Bureau.
Despite the administration’s opposition to the SIPP, a document recently provided to Congress about the survey touts its benefits and uses (http://maloney.house.gov/documents/govreform/census/CensusDocumentSIPP.ppt).
The letter to Portman was signed by: Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
In March, Rep. Maloney and Sen. Reed joined 69 other Senators and Members of Congress to ask the president to restore funding to the SIPP (http://maloney.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1102&Itemid=61).
The Survey of Income and Program Participation was started by the Census Bureau in 1984 to gather more detailed information about the impact of government aid on people’s lives and how they move into and out of government programs. Rather than just capturing information at a point-in-time, the SIPP survey is unique because it questions thousands of the same people every few months for several years, providing a greater understanding of transitions into and out of government programs.
The rich and detailed data generated by this survey allow researchers and lawmakers to examine the real-world impact of a wide variety of government programs, such as welfare reform, Medicaid, child-support enforcement, and unemployment insurance. The survey provides essential information on the extent to which programs meet families’ basic needs and promote upward mobility. The SIPP also provides more in-depth information than other government surveys on work-family issues, such as maternity leave, child care usage and costs, and the work schedules of couples.