Data Advocacy Update

2017 has brought a great deal of change to Washington, with a new Administration and Congress. With so many new faces and political developments, it can be hard to keep up. There are a few important developments that you need to pay attention to.

The “skinny budget” proposed by the Trump Administration contains a series of substantial cuts to federal statistical agencies. This budget provides $1.5 billion, an increase of more than $100 million, for the U.S. Census Bureau to continue preparations for the 2020 Decennial Census. This additional funding prioritizes fundamental investments in information technology and field infrastructure, which would allow the bureau to more effectively administer the 2020 Decennial Census. However, the Census Bureau will require significant increases in its budget to prepare for and administer the rapidly approaching Census.

The proposed budget consolidates the mission, policy support, and administrative functions of the Economics and Statistics Administration within the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Department of Commerce’s Office of the Secretary. It will also reduce funding for USDA’s statistical capabilities, while maintaining core Departmental analytical functions, such as the funding necessary to complete the Census of Agriculture.

Keep in mind that Congress has the power of the purse and that the drastic cuts proposed by the President are only proposals. A full budget will emerge later in the spring with more details, and this is when the real decisions will be made about the FY 2018 budget. It is increasingly likely that the FY 2017 budget will be a continuing resolution, effectively extending funding at current levels until the end of the fiscal year.

There are also important decisions to be made regarding leadership for the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Census Bureau Director John Thompson’s five-year term expires at the end of 2017, while Bill Wiatrowski is serving as Acting Commissioner of the BLS following the end of former Commissioner Erica Groshen’s term. It is important that President Trump appoint quality leaders who understand the importance of these agencies.

There are several other legislative priorities to consider with regard to federal statistics. While there is less support for making the American Community Survey voluntary, which would dramatically reduce response rates, there are other concerning developments. The Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), could limit data available for Department of Housing and Urban Development geospatial data. There are concerns that the Census could become politicized by the inclusion of questions of immigration status in the survey.

C2ER is working hard to ensure that these valuable data resources are protected and supported in Congress. We will continue to monitor these developments and educate policymakers about the critical importance of federal statistics to C2ER members.

President’s Budget Overview for Economic Development and Statistics

Economic Development Related Cuts

  • The Budget proposes to eliminate funding for many independent agencies, including: the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Northern Border Regional Commission.
  • Eliminates the Economic Development Administration, which provides small grants with limited measurable impacts and duplicates other Federal programs, such as Rural Utilities Service grants at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and formula grants to States from the Department of Transportation. By terminating this agency, the Budget saves $221 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • Eliminates the Minority Business Development Agency, which is duplicative of other Federal, State, local, and private sector efforts that promote minority business entrepreneurship including Small Business Administration District Offices and Small Business Development Centers.
  • Saves $124 million by discontinuing Federal funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, which subsidizes up to half the cost of State centers, which provide consulting services to small- and medium-size manufacturers. By eliminating Federal funding, MEP centers would transition solely to non-Federal revenue sources, as was originally intended when the program was established.
  • Reduces duplicative and underperforming USDA programs by eliminating discretionary activities of the Rural Business and Cooperative Service, a savings of $95 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • Eliminates the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program because the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.
  • Expands DOL Reemployment and Eligibility Assessments, an evidence-based activity that saves an average of $536 per claimant in unemployment insurance benefit costs by reducing improper payments and getting claimants back to work more quickly and at higher wages.
  • Decreases Federal support for DOL job training and employment service formula grants, shifting more responsibility for funding these services to states, localities, and employers.
  • Helps states expand apprenticeships, an evidence-based approach to preparing workers for jobs.
  • Eliminates funding for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which was originally conceived of as a temporary program nearly 40 years ago to provide subsidized commercial air service to rural airports. EAS flights are not full and have high subsidy costs per passenger. Several EAS-eligible communities are relatively close to major airports, and communities that have EAS could be served by other existing modes of transportation. This proposal would result in a discretionary savings of $175 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • Eliminates funding for the unauthorized TIGER discretionary grant program, which awards grants to projects that are generally eligible for funding under existing surface transportation formula programs, saving $499 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. Further, DOT’s Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects grant program, authorized by the FAST Act of 2015, supports larger highway and multimodal freight projects with demonstrable national or regional benefits. This grant program is authorized at an annual average of $900 million through 2020.
  • Eliminates funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund grants, a savings of $210 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. The CDFI Fund was created more than 20 years ago to jump-start a now mature industry where private institutions have ready access to the capital needed to extend credit and provide financial services to underserved communities.
  • Achieves $12 million in cost savings from the 2017 annualized CR level through identifying and eliminating those SBA grant programs where the private sector provides effective mechanisms to foster local business development and investment. Eliminations include PRIME technical assistance grants, Regional Innovation Clusters, and Growth Accelerators.

Statistics Related News

  • Provides $1.5 billion, an increase of more than $100 million, for the U.S. Census Bureau to continue preparations for the 2020 Decennial Census. This additional funding prioritizes fundamental investments in information technology and field infrastructure, which would allow the bureau to more effectively administer the 2020 Decennial Census.
  • Consolidates the mission, policy support, and administrative functions of the Economics and Statistics Administration within the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Department of Commerce’s Office of the Secretary.
  • Reduces funding for USDA’s statistical capabilities, while maintaining core Departmental analytical functions, such as the funding necessary to complete the Census of Agriculture.