From: Census2000 <Census2000(a)ccmc.org>
Senate Appropriations Panel Considers Request For Additional Census
Key Chairman Skeptical of "Emergency" Designation for Census
The Senate Committee on Appropriations held a hearing today to
consider the President's request for an additional $1.7 billion for
Census 2000. Last week, the Senate passed a version of the fiscal
year 2000 Commerce spending bill that only included the $2.789
billion originally requested for the census in fiscal year 2000. At
today's hearing, a key subcommittee chairman asked for more detailed
budget information but was skeptical about designating funds for
Census 2000 as "emergency spending," a move the House spending panel
is considering. The Clinton Administration asked for extra funds to
conduct the decennial count after the Supreme Court ruled that
sampling could not be used to calculate the population of the states
for congressional apportionment.
The only legislator at today's hearing in a cramped room of the U.S.
Capitol was Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), chairman of the
appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and The
Judiciary. Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt explained the
agency's need for extra funds, saying that 95 percent of the extra
$1.7 billion was a "direct result" of the January 1999 Court
decision. The Bureau, he said, has added new operations "to improve
the accuracy and completeness of the count without sampling" and
increased quality controls on existing activities, particularly in
rural areas and for the hardest-to-count populations such as the
homeless and non-English speakers.
Dr. Prewitt emphasized the need for a timely appropriation for the
fiscal year beginning October 1. "Census 2000 is well underway," he
said. "The train has left the station. We cannot park this train
on October 1, even for a few days, without severe consequences to
the schedule and accuracy of the census." "An example," the
director said, "is the need to buy air time for the media campaign
in early October, to run census educational and awareness messages
beginning in November."
Eighty-four percent ($1.451 billion) of the extra funds will pay for
field data collection efforts and support activities. Follow-up
visits to all households that don't mail back a form, Dr. Prewitt
said, will increase the workload 50 percent, or by 15 million homes,
over the Bureau's original Census 2000 plan. Reasons for the
increased costs include extending the follow-up phase by four weeks;
screening one million more applicants to fill 300,000 more temporary
positions; opening 44 additional local offices; keeping the four
data processing centers open two months longer; expanding technical
capabilities for payroll and data transmission; re-checking an
estimated 7.5 million housing units initially classified as vacant
or non-existent; visiting housing units built after the address list
was completed; and increasing paid advertising and other promotional
efforts. The Census Bureau also expects lower productivity as the
number of temporary workers grows significantly, "resulting in lower
overall skill level."
Dr. Prewitt also noted that the revised plan saves about $209
million from reducing the size of the quality-check post census
survey (called the Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation, or ACE,
program). The final census plan includes a 300,000 household survey
to measure undercounts and overcounts, down from 750,000 households.
Senator questions "emergency" designation for Census 2000: Chairman
Gregg, noting that the Constitution requires a census every ten
years, asked rhetorically: "Is the census in 2000 an emergency?"
The senator was referring to action last week by House appropriators
to designate Census 2000 funds as "emergency spending" to avoid
counting the cost of next year's operations against the restrictive
budget caps on government programs.
Sen. Gregg asked how long the Census Bureau could operate if
Congress provided only $3 billion of the full $4.512 billion at the
start of the fiscal year. Dr. Prewitt said most of the money is
spent from March to July, when the forms are mailed and most
follow-up visits and data processing takes place. The chairman
asked for more detailed information on the flow of spending each
month in fiscal year 2000 and on plans to hire 300,000 more
enumerators and other field staff than originally projected. In
1990, Congress passed a $100 million emergency spending bill in the
spring when a lower-than-expected mail response forced the Census
Bureau to raise hourly pay rates and hire more enumerators.
Questions about the information contained in this News Alert may be
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