Category Archives: Federal Agencies

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.

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.

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.

Managers to Merge in Minneapolis: Who You’ll See at the 2016 C2ER Conference

This year’s Council for Community and Economic Research Conference (C2ER) and LMI Institute Forum is focused on the global impact of regional partnerships, and managers from around the U.S. will gather to discuss topics facing industries, the economy, and the talent pool.

The conference takes place June 6-10 in Minneapolis. Classes, presentations, and breakout sessions are designed to guide state, national, and regional-level managers that want to be better enabled to make positive impacts both at home and abroad. Frequently, the people we work with and speak come from organizations that either provide strategic international partnerships or are growing their own understanding about globalization’s regional affects on their daily business.

The fundamental reality is that promoting an active global perspective among labor-supply specialists, economic developers, and researchers is essential to developing sustainable regional partnerships. Globally focused relationships and mindsets give leaders the foundations needed for international collaboration that addresses the greatest challenges in producing jobs and improving workforce quality.

C2ER and the LMI Institute, Leaders in the Field:

For 56 years, C2ER and the LMI Institute have brought together chamber leaders, administrators at government agencies and universities, data and labor-market experts, administrators at economic-development and utility firms, and consulting directors. Economic researchers and labor market specialists have added value to their state and municipal agencies after attending the event. We invite you to visit our event site and view the preliminary agenda to learn more.

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.

Highlights of C2ER / Bureau of Economic Analysis Data Focus Group

focus-groupThe Council for Community and  Economic Research organized a teleconference-style focus group on March 11, 2015, to learn more about our members’ most commonly-used data sources and to gather recommendations for future products for the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Continue reading

GASB State Tax Incentive Rule

GASB Tax Incentive Picture Beginning in 2017, those interested in incentives and tax abatement expenditures spending will likely have access to significantly more data than is currently available. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), the independent organization which “establishes financial accounting and reporting standards for state and local governments,” is asking for public comments on a proposed change to current standards for property and tax abatement agreements. Continue reading

White_House_Washington

White House Signs WIOA, Releases Inter-Agency Training Plan

President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law on July 22nd, after overwhelming approval in the House and Senate. WIOA is the most significant reform  of federal job training programs in more than 15 years. The majority of WIOA provisions will become effective on July 1, 2015, the first full program year after enactment. Continue reading

us capitol

House Passes the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed with bipartisan support the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) 415-6. The legislation, authored by Senators Harkin, Alexander, Murray, and Isakson and Representatives Kline, Miller, Foxx, and Hinojosa, was previously approved by the Senate, 95-3. The legislation is now set to become law upon the President’s signature.

Read on for more information on:

  • The passage of the legislation
  • In-depth analysis by the National Skills Coalition
selectuse

C2ER Attends SelectUSA Summer Forum

C2ER staffer Wen Sun attended the SelectUSA Summer Forum  held in Washington, DC on June 17th, where Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker unveiled the newly designed Access Costs Everywhere (ACE) framework, one of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)’s tools to assist manufacturers and other businesses investing in the United States. Secretary Pritzker also discussed the Department’s investments in a wide array of other initiatives, including the newly launched U.S. Cluster Mapping tool. Continue reading