Sequester Will Crimp Census Bureau, Says Advocacy Group

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The coming blunt force of sequestration will leave the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau with a budget of $845 million, 13 percent less than the $970 million requested and a spending level that will risk the government’s capacity to gauge economic conditions and formulate policy for both the public and private sectors, says a new paper.

In a compilation to be released on Thursday, the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress examines the effects on the decennial census of mandatory across-the-board cuts as well as cuts from the fiscal 2013 governmentwide spending bill. “At the same time, the American Community Survey, or ACS -- the annual sampling survey that replaced the 'long-form' census after the 2000 census -- is in the crosshairs of the House Republicans who last year voted to fundamentally alter and defund the survey,” wrote CAP speechwriter Kristina Costa.

“Cutting the Census Bureau’s budget and eviscerating the American Community Survey will lead to less-informed government and a more expensive decennial count in 2020, as well as endanger data sources essential to government, researchers, and businesses alike,” she wrote.

The Census Bureau has been battling budget cuts for several years. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank in March wrote to Congress saying that sequestration would force the agency to delay the economic census, the once-every-five-years survey that forms the basis for a wide range of economic indicators from gross domestic product to unemployment. Blank called the cuts “putting at risk our ability to take accurate stock of current economic conditions and well-being and potentially impacting policymaking and economic decisions in the private sector.”

Data in the American Community Survey help direct more than $400 billion in federal money to states and localities each year, including highway planning and construction, special education, Section 8 housing assistance and transit grants, the CAP study noted.

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