Category Archives: Advocacy

Data and Budgeting for an Effective Economy

Government provided data plays an integral role in decision-making within businesses and government. It is important that the data be obtained and reviewed with a high level of rigor to maintain its integrity. A large quantity of data comes directly from the Federal government thanks in part to agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), and most prominently, the Census Bureau. These agencies are all in line to endure cuts from the Trump Administration’s budget.
Supporters of the Census Bureau have raised concerns that the agency isn’t receiving the funds necessary to adequately perform the decennial Census. Government collected data has long been considered the “Gold Standard” of data resources, and for good reason; these agencies are fiercely dedicated to providing accurate, unbiased statistics. Our country depends on these statistics as a kind of lubricant for our economy; the better the information, the more efficient its operation.

We use the Census to determine how our local constituencies are represented. The BEA produces statistics that measure U.S. economic performance, like GDP. The BLS tracks our national unemployment rate, and the demographic statistics that compose the greater national reporting. Cutting funding for these programs could have negative repercussion to our economy and society.

The impact the Administration’s proposed budget has on the Census is particularly concerning. Compared to years past, the proposed funding ramp-up to the decennial Census is far behind, especially considering the new method the Census is interested in testing. The primary function of the Census is to make record of every person residing in our nation, and the Bureau is working to find better ways to execute the most accurate count possible. The Bureau understands that even a successful Census count, like the one 2010, comes with errors, and they are seeking out ways to improve their processes.

Citizens that change residences frequently can be missed, and those with more than one home are sometimes counted multiple times, or do not respond to the standard data collecting methods at all. This has a direct impact on political apportionment, and we should be encouraging the Census to develop new, modern techniques, not battling for funding that barely allows the Bureau to keep valuable programs like the American Community Survey (ACS) afloat. Using new methods to perform such a daunting task undoubtedly comes with uncertainty, but the Bureau of the Census estimate that investing in updates could save over $5 billion when compared to their traditional data collecting methods.

The BLS and BEA both serve to provide policy and business leaders with essential macroeconomic indicators. Monthly unemployment and national GDP statistics are developed by these agencies respectively. Those two statistical programs alone are immensely powerful, and important decisions, including the allocation of government funding and business development resources, are made with this information in mind.

These two programs aside, the Administration’s budget request explicitly states of the BLS that the Bureau “may need to delay or defer spending on…certain data improvement…and research projects…”, a statement that goes without saying considering the FY18 budget request doesn’t even allow the BLS to cover needed budget adjustments resulting from inflation. The National Economic Accounts, which produces the crown jewel of the BEA, annual GDP, faces a sharp 12% reduction in funding which will require the BEA to do away with developing new programs, like the International Trade in Services initiative, completely. In their Congressional budget estimate write-up, the Department of Commerce reports that, “Without these new data, U.S. businesses, trade negotiators, state and local planners, and other policy-makers will lack critical data to guide future economic decisions.”

Quality government provided statistics are an imperative that transcends the political spectrum; Democrats and Republicans alike can understand the important role that the government has in providing accurate data for the Congress. Members of the House and Senate need to know who they are representing if it is incumbent upon them to advocate for their needs. Further, good statistics are needed by both the private and public sectors. Free markets are more productive and efficient when business decisions are informed with reliable data. Good work from the Federal Statistical Agencies raises all the boats in the harbor. This part of our government is too connected to economic activities that result in jobs and wages to not receive the support it needs. The implications of the work done by agencies like the Census Bureau should be considered paramount to the government’s effort in promoting prosperity.

The Census Bureau requires upwards of $1.8B in FY2018 to perform the preparations necessary to conduct a full decennial Census. This upfront investment will ultimately save money and improve the quality of the data. BLS and BEA also have been facing cuts to vital programs due to a lack of funding and staffing and need your support. Contact your representatives to let them know you want them to support Federal data programs. The Census Project, C2ER, LMI Institute, and APDU will keep you up to date as the budget develops.

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.

Support the 2020 Census

We need your help.  We need you or your organization to help educate your Congressional leaders on the importance of funding the 2020 Census as well as related “periodic programs” such as the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Economic Census.

The U.S. Congress is back in session this week (November 28), and they are taking up the federal budget.  The federal government is currently funded through December 9 through a continuing resolution (CR).  Congress is expected to pass another extension through March rather than completing action through the end of the fiscal year.  Census needs attention because we are at a critical planning stage for the 2020 Census. Not only is it important to count our citizens accurately, but adequate 2020 Census funding also has potentially critical impacts on other data programs that are funded from the same program account, including the ACS and Economic Census.

First, planning for the 2020 decennial census is in a precarious funding position.  As the Census Bureau ramps up planning for 2020, the agency typically receives budget supplements to accomplish important preparatory tasks. While these tasks require funding, the CR process provides resource increases only if Congress approves a “spending anomaly” for Census, authorizing more funds.  Congress did not do this in the first CR passed in September.

In the coming fiscal year, Congress is asking the Census Bureau to complete tasks that it would not typically have to undertake outside the 2020 Census planning cycle.  For instance, the Bureau must test and submit topics for both the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey and begin testing alternative data collection methods designed to drive down overall costs for the 10-year cycle. Census is also testing new information technology systems and completing a dry run in 2018. Census is also seeking other ways to hold costs down, including using Internet responses – an option it could not use in 2010 due to lack of funding that ironically ultimately increased the cost of the Census.  The irony is that insufficient funds now could lead to cost overruns later in the 2020 planning cycle.

The Census is funded from a program account that includes the American Community Survey and the Economic Census.  Overruns in the 2020 census implementation could threaten these two critically important programs.  ACS is the only source of granular information about demographics available annually by community that not only Congressional leaders use to understand their districts but that economic and workforce developers use to recruit companies and serve jobseekers.  The Economic Census is the primary data source about business buying and selling activity that we use for econometric models explaining multiplier impacts and a key source for understanding clusters and supply chains.

We are asking you to reach out in 3 ways in the next two weeks:

  1. Contact your Congressional office to let them know how important this issue is to you or your organization’s efforts.  It would be helpful if you could provide 1 or 2 examples of how these data help your organization create jobs and put people to work more efficiently.
  2. Share this call to action with your state or local network; ask your colleagues to reach out as well.
  3. Feel free to blind copy us on any appeals you make on Census’ behalf.

Support for the 2020 Census is vital, not only to ensuring we have an accurate and complete count of Americans but also to ensure that programs such as the American Community Survey and the Economic Census are protected.

Thank you in advance for your help!  We will keep you up-dated on what Congress ultimately decides to do.

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Wants to Hear from You!

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policy wants to hear from you. The Commission is soliciting input from stakeholders on issues relevant to the Commission’s charge, established in Public Law 114-140. We are interested in hearing about data access issues, barriers to research, issues related to the capacity of states to engage in data and evidence building and issues related to privacy and confidentiality.

Continue reading

Advocate for Important Data Programs

Congress and the Administration have reached a budget deal for FY2016 (and FY2017) that will increase the overall spending limit for non-defense discretionary programs by $25 billion for the fiscal year that started October 1st. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees must now revise the 12 annual funding bills, and Congress must enact them, before the temporary spending bill (Continuing Resolution) expires on December 11th.

This is an opportunity for  members to advocate to the House and Senate subcommittees in charge of funding for the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Bureau of Economic Analysis. The new budget framework provides additional resources for the appropriate committees in charge of these vital data programs (Commerce, State, Justice or equivalent in the House/Senate and Housing Education Labor Pensions or equivalent in the House/Senate). The Census Project is currently circulating a letter advocating for full ACS funding. Now would be a good time for your Senator or Congressman to hear about the importance of Census, BLS, and BEA funding.

BLS Letter of Support

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Friends of Labor Statistics asks that Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) users directly contact your Senators and Representatives to help prevent BLS from having to cut its statistical programs.

The link below provides a template for organizations and individuals to use and revise to specific concerns and circumstances.

BLS Appropriations Template

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Legislative Update: WIA reauth, Census, and more

This week, C2ER joined its partners in the Workforce Data Quality Campaign for a private briefing on the Hill, voicing its support for continued commitment to education and workforce data.

The big news this week was the House and Senate leadership announcing the release of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which was due for reauthorization eleven years ago. The National Skills Coalition has a page of resources including a summary, statements, and text of the bill. According the The Hill (the publication not the institution), WIOA would eliminate 15 federal programs and overhaul requirements throughout the job training system in a bid to help job seekers gain valuable employment skills. The Chronicle of Higher Education says that while community colleges are generally happy with the compromise, some are also frustrated that the bill would continue to require colleges that accept vouchers to report employment and earnings information for all of their students, and that it would not guarantee the institutions a seat on statewide workforce development boards. Continue reading

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Friends of BLS releases first member list

C2ER has joined the Friends of BLS group to support the mission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and educate the public and decision-makers on the agency’s work. The group has 30+ entities signed on as supporters, including: Continue reading

C2ER met with Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss BLS budget issues

C2ER met with Justin Gibbons and Stephen Steigleder, staffers for the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee on April 25 to discuss BLS budget issues.  C2ER has joined the Friends of BLS to express concerns about recent cuts to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) and other programs.  Others participating in the meeting included the American Statistical Association, Association of Public Data Users, International Council of Shopping Centers, and the National Association of Business Economists.

On April 29, the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee reported its mark-up of key statistical agencies, including $92.5 million below the President’s request for Census and $12 million below the President’s request for the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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Public data making the rounds in the media

As the appropriations process gears up on Capitol Hill, government officials, advocates, and journalists are making the case for preserving public data.