A Message From Joan

May 30, 2014 - 7 minutes read

Hello, MACS supporters,

Thanks for your ongoing support for the American Community Survey and Census data.   You know how critical the data are for moving Minnesota and Minnesotans in the right direction — the economy, our communities, our well-being.

It’s been a busy week– this is a short wrap-up, and a look ahead.    Let me know if you’d like to chat, or have suggestions for us.  We’d love to hear from you.

Congressional Activities

  • Last week, the Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives finalized their recommendations for the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS)  fiscal year 2015 Budget, including the Census Bureau.   The Census Bureau is ramping up toward the 2020 Decennial Census, so funding levels must rise to accommodate research, design, testing, and more to be ready with the right — and cost-efficient — design by the start of FY2016 (October 2015).   That’s when the actual operational design, technology, training plans, etc must begin.
  • Unfortunately, the Appropriations Committee reduced the Census Bureau’s requested Periodic Accounts (including the 2020 Decennial Census, ACS, and Economic Census) funding by -9%, in order to fund other programs.
  • This week, the CJS Appropriations Bill was approved by the entire House of Representatives.   Another -12% of funds were removed from the Census Bureau by amendment, again, to fund other programs.
  • Rep. Ted Poe (TX) offered an amendment that no Census Bureau funds could be used to enforce the mandatory ACS, thereby making the ACS a voluntary survey.    The amendment passed on voice vote.

This is hard news — the Census Bureau simply cannot prepare for the 2020 Decennial Census, operate the ACS and other programs with a -20% reduction in their FY 2015 budget.   A voluntary ACS would result in low quality data; in fact, data for smaller places and rural areas would likely not be published.  

One bright spot was a “Dear Colleague” letter circulated by Congressman Ellison and Congresswoman Maloney (NY), urging support for Census Bureau funding and a mandatory ACS.    We are proud that a MN congressman was a leader on behalf of ACS Census data.  Please be sure to thank him for his support.

What’s next?  The appropriations process now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee next week.    The Census Bureau budget will then be approved by the full Senate, hopefully at a level closer to the the initial request, followed by a conference committee to determine the final budget and language.   June will be busy, and important.

MACS will be monitoring the budget deliberations in the Senate, and communicate with our Senators about the importance of funding the Census Bureau to support consistent, reliable data.   

Your voice is important.  Be sure to let our Senators know that ACS Census data are critically important for Minnesota, that the Census Bureau budget needs to be fully funded, and that the ACS needs to be a mandatory survey.  

MACS Activities

  • Star Tribune ran an Opinion piece by MACS Supporter Todd Klingel, CEO and President of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, on May 23.         Todd’s piece was widely circulated with Minnesota’s delegation and in D.C.    Many thanks to Todd for speaking out on the importance of these data.     http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/260339431.html
  • Congressional meetings.   This week, MACS met with the offices of Congressman Peterson in Willmar, Congresswoman Bachmann in St. Cloud, and Senator Franken in St. Paul.   Thanks to Todd Klingel, Manny Munson-Regala, and Mary Kartz for joining us at the St. Paul meetings.
  • Networking with Minnesota Council on Foundations – Central Minnesota sponsored events to showcase the importance of Census data in Willmar and St. Cloud.    MACS followed ACS training by a Census Bureau Dissemination expert – a great combination.
  • MACS goes to conferences.   MACS Steering Committee members, Susan Brower and Jeff Matson, attended the first ever national ACS User’s Group conference this week.   They were prepared to share the MACS message with others who may want to create a similar coalition in their state or organization.   Let us know if you’re attending a conference in the coming months.  We’ll equip you with talking points, business cards, and our one-pager to share.   It’s an easy “ask” — most everyone understands the importance of reliable, consistent data, and that this valuable resource is unavailable elsewhere.
  • The MACS steering committee met in May, laying out our priorities in the coming months.   Many thanks to Susan Brower, Todd Graham, Ethan Roberts, Andi Egbert, Jeff Matson, and Chris Henjum, for your dedication to ACS Census data.
  • MACS has a web site!  (http://minnesotansforacs.org/) We are still adding content, but please take a look.  Thanks to Chris Henjum for creating a fabulous site for the MACS message.   We’re also on Twitter at @mnsforacs .

Keep those ideas coming.  Let us know if you’re using ACS data for a project or program.    Going to a conference?   Bring MACS materials and message along — we need other “chapters” in other states to make sure ACS Census data continue to survive.  Share our message with your colleagues and friends.   It’s easy to become a supporter — no cost, no work, just add your name.   There’s strength in numbers.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Joan

Director, MACS – Minnesotans for the American Community Survey