Census Caucus Co-Chairs, Members of Congress, Civil Rights Groups Announce New Bill to Get the 2020 Census Process on Track

Oct 11, 2017
Press Release
Current Census Funding Levels are Woefully Inadequate, Jeopardizing the 2020 Census and its Data

WASHINGTON, DC –Today, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) and Keith Ellison (MN-5), Co-Chairs of the House Census Caucus, and Reps. Mark Takano (CA-41) and Ruben Gallego (AZ-7) were joined by civil rights groups as they announced a new effort to address the current severe underfunding of the Census Bureau. This announcement comes ahead of Secretary Ross’ testimony on Thursday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the 2020 census.

Despite its constitutionally mandated responsibility to conduct a nationwide census every ten years, the Census Bureau’s 2020 Decennial effort is woefully underfunded with budget constraints forcing a scale back of its 2018 end-to-end test, a dress rehearsal during which all new technologies and counting methods are meant to be tested and evaluated. Due to these cuts, rural and suburban communities, as well as communities with high levels of military personnel, have been dropped entirely from operations testing and the Spanish language test in Puerto Rico has been canceled. Work on advertising campaigns and partnership programs are also delayed. All of this is particularly ominous if we are to fulfill our constitutional mandate of an accurate count in 2020.

“Counting every person in this country every ten years is a Constitutional obligation that dates back to our founding, yet because of chronic underfunding the 2020 Census is at serious risk of failure,” said Rep. Maloney. “With just three years to go before the 2020 Census, critical planning, testing and outreach are being cut back due to lack of funds and the Census Bureau is in desperate need of additional funding now to get things back on track. That is why today, we are introducing the 2020 American Census Investment Act. This bill will provide the Census Bureau with the funding it needs to conduct a fair, accurate, and cost effective census. The choice is simple – we can pay now or ask our constituents to pay far more later down the road – or worse, we can own the first ever failure to fulfill our Constitutional duty to deliver a full, fair and complete count of the nation. ”

“Ours is supposed to be a government of we, the people — but that doesn’t work if Congress doesn’t take its stewardship of democracy seriously,” said Rep. Ellison. “Instead of undermining and under-funding our constitutional duty to count everyone, Congress should do its job and ensure fair representation for all Americans."

“An accurate and comprehensive census is one of our best opportunities to understand and address the challenges facing minority communities, which are too often ignored,” said Rep. Takano. “I strongly support this effort to fully fund the Census Bureau so that it can produce the information we need to help every American. This is about more than the value of data, it’s about the value of people.”

“The Trump administration’s attempts to sabotage the census are yet another attack on the communities of color he has targeted throughout his presidency. When the census is compromised, it is minority and immigrant communities that face the harshest consequences,” said Rep. Gallego. “Federal funds for Medicaid, education and housing assistance don’t get to communities where they are needed most, and it makes it harder to enforce key civil rights laws like the Voting Rights Act, which depends on accurate census data. A compromised census means a compromised democracy. We must make sure the 2020 census gets the resources and the leadership it desperately needs.”

"No one benefits from a failed census, but low-income households, young children, people of color and immigrants are particularly vulnerable to being undercounted,” said Jennifer Bellamy, Legislative Counsel Washington Legislative Office, American Civil Liberties Union. “A fair and accurate census is a significant civil rights issue: census data helps ensure to fair and proportionate voting representation, determines the allocation of key federal funds and assists federal agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in combatting discrimination. Congress has a constitutional responsibility to provide sufficient funding to get the census right."

"Full and adequate funding for the 2020 Census is critical for the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ people and other communities that are underserved and overlooked, including youth and seniors, people of color, transgender people, and the undocumented,” said Valerie Ploumpis, National Policy Director, Equality California. “When people are not counted, they literally do not count and do not receive the services they need."

“NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice applauds Representative Maloney for her leadership on the census. Too often, vulnerable populations – people experiencing poverty, residents of rural areas, or people displaced by natural disasters – are uncounted or undercounted in the census. Faith tells us that people at the margins should be the focus of our concerns,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “The Census Bureau has a responsibility to count every resident, and needs better funding to do so. The 2020 Investment Census Act is critical to ensure our nation fulfills our constitutional mandate and moral obligation to count 100% of our nation’s people—in a manner that is fair, accurate, and efficient.”

“It may be 2017, but the 2020 Census has already begun, and it’s clear more resources are needed to ensure a successful count—one that counts all communities equally well. If the census isn’t fair and accurate, the nation’s most vulnerable communities will be robbed of representation and needed resources for years to come,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “We applaud Congresswoman Maloney for introducing the 2020 American Census Investment Act, which will help ensure that the Census Bureau has the resources it needs to succeed. An accurate and fair census, and the collection of useful, objective data about our nation’s people, housing, economy, and communities generally, is among the most important civil rights issues of our day.”

“The census must be done fairly, accurately, and with sufficient funding because it literally determines whether Asian Americans will be visible and counted accurately in the population,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC.  “We applaud Congresswoman Maloney for introducing the 2020 American Census Investment Act and for understanding that without a significant increase in funding, it will be communities of color who will suffer the consequences.”

“There is truth in the mantra that ‘in order to manage a problem, you must first measure it,’” said Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.  “The communities represented and served by the NAACP need an accurate census count.  We recognize that political representation and adequate public services including health care, education, transportation, job creation, policing, and housing all depend on an accurate census count.   An accurate, comprehensive census results in access to important governmental and private sector resources for all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity.That is why we are especially appreciative of the continuous, tireless, efforts by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY), Congressman Keith Ellison (MN), and others to ensure that the upcoming Census, in 2020, is as accurate and comprehensive as possible by crafting and introducing the ‘2020 American Census Investment Act,” H.R. 4013 calls on Congress to adequately invest in a constitutionally-mandated activity.  The U.S. Constitution requires an accurate count of the nation's population every ten years,” Director Shelton concluded.

The bill has been endorsed by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (AFSCME); the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund; NAACP; Equality California; NALEO Educational Fund; Mi Familia; Vota; the Association of Asian American Community Health Organizations; Common Cause; the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), and Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC.