Capitol Correspondence - 10.30.17

The Census Struggles – Implications for IDD

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Planning and preparation for the 2020 Census is a multi-year process that is currently well underway, however, it is undergoing fiscal challenges that have ramifications for the IDD community because it affects the collection of data that is used for important policy decisions.

According to this large article by Politico: “Mandated by the Constitution and conducted without fail every 10 years, the census is the most important and expensive project of any kind that the government regularly undertakes. But it’s already well behind schedule. Strapped for funding in the 2016 and 2017 budgets, it has canceled two of the three field tests scheduled for 2018 and pushed back its advertising campaign designed to get people to answer the survey. When the Census Bureau asked for money in the three-month stopgap spending measure that passed in early September, Congress denied those funds.” Despite Congress’ inclination to save funding on the Census however, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau, is estimating the Census will cost more than previously estimated.

What do the Census’ funding difficulties mean for the disability community? The Census collects demographic information that is used for policy and programmatic decisions at all levels of government. These decisions affect the daily lives of all people living in the U.S. and some of which directly affect people with disabilities specifically. For example: federal officials may use Census data to decide how much to spend on certain disability programs; state officials may use it to understand workforce trends in their area, including which workforces to prioritize for investment; and localities might use it to plan more effective bus routes or increase the size of their special education programs. If the Census is not adequately funded, it could lead to inaccurate data which could in turn lead to less optimal policy decisions.