August has arrived and, as is our custom, we want to update you on the latest policy and legislative developments in Washington D.C., and, most importantly, provide you with suggested requests in the event you have an opportunity to engage with members of your congressional delegation when they are back in their states and districts this month and in the fall leading up to the November 3 general election.
- Support Extension of the 2020 Census
- Provide the National Institutes of Health with $26 billion and the National Science Foundation with $125 million to Restore COVID-19-eroded Research Funding
- Support Completion of Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations and Keep Federal Government Open
1: Support Extension of 2020 Census
On April 13, in response to pandemic-related delays, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Director Steven Dillingham announced that the Administration would be asking Congress to approve legislation granting the Census Bureau the authority to extend the 2020 Census statutory deadlines. Specifically, their plan called for extending 2020 Census field data collection and self-response to October 31, 2020, and delivering apportionment counts to the President by April 30, 2021, and redistricting data to be delivered to the states no later than July 31, 2021.
But only three months later, without explanation, the administration abandoned its request to push back the statutory reporting deadlines, forcing the Census Bureau to rush through remaining counting operations and curtail vital quality check and data processing activities—even though the national self-response rate at the start of the door knocking operation was the lowest ever, and the number of homes to visit in person the highest ever.
On August 6, PAA and APC joined over 900 national, state, and local organizations in sending a letter to leaders in the U.S. Senate, urging that chamber to include language in its next COVID relief measure that would extend the 2020 Census statutory deadlines. The U.S. House of Representatives already included this language in its last COVID relief package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800).
Without congressional action, the Administration will be allowed to pursue its plan to rush completion of the 2020 Census—including curtailing quality assurance and data processing activities—and deliver flawed apportionment data by the end of the year. Census stakeholders, including PAA, are working with supporters in Congress to give the Census Bureau the time its career staff says they need to complete a high-quality, accurate census. Time is of the essence if the Census Bureau is to reverse course once again and pursue its original pandemic-adjusted operational plan and data delivery schedule. More information.
2: Provide NIH and NSF with additional funding in COVID relief bill
In May, the U.S. House of Representatives approved its more recent comprehensive COVID-relief measure, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800). The Act recommended additional funding for several federal agencies important to the PAA, including $4.75 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $125 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF).
In July, the Senate Republican majority introduced its counterproposal to the HEROES Act, the Healthcare, Economic Assistance, Liability, And Schools (HEALS) HEALS Act. The HEALS includes $15.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health, but no additional funding for the National Science Foundation. Negotiations between the House and Senate and White House continued for a brief period after the HEALS Act was introduced, but quickly stalled and the Senate adjourned for August recess without an agreement. In August, the Senate majority introduced a revised, scaled back COVID relief package, the Delivering Immediate Relief to America's Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act (S. 178), which did not contain any funding for federal scientific agencies. It is assumed that negotiations on another COVID relief package will resume in September.
Additional funding for the NIH and NSF is necessary to help restore federally funded research activities that were affected by pandemic-related shutdowns and disruptions, such as the discontinuation of surveys and data collection. PAA has joined other scientific organizations in urging Congress to provide federal science agencies, including the NIH and NSF, with $26 billion in relief funding for researchers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as called for in the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R. 7308). Likewise, PAA joined other scientific organizations in supporting the $15.5 billion for the NIH that was proposed in the Senate HEALS Act. As members of the Coalition for National Science Funding, PAA is also working to ensure the NSF receives no less than $125 million that the House proposed.
See more information about COVID-related population research activities.
3: Support Completion of FY 2021 Appropriations and Keep Federal Government Open
On July 31, the U.S. House of Representatives approved two packages of appropriations measures (so-called “minibus” bills), the first consisting of four bills in late June and the second comprising six bills. This bill, HR 7617, included two bills (Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations and Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations), that fund many agencies important to the PAA. The bill proposed generous funding levels for the NIH ($46 billion), National Center for Health Statistics ($174.4 million), Bureau of Labor Statistics ($655 million), Census Bureau ($1.68 billion), and NSF ($8.5 billion). The bill was also accompanied by a report that included language praising demographic research programs at the National Institute on Aging and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The U.S. Senate has not yet acted on their FY 2021 appropriations bills. The inaction, particularly this late in the year, increases the likelihood that Congress and the Administration will need to pass a continuing resolution to keep the federal government open when the current fiscal year (FY 2020) ends on September 30. PAA urges Congress to, at a minimum, pass a continuing resolution and keep the federal government open while Congress and the Administration complete work on the final FY 2021 appropriations bills.
Thank you for considering this opportunity to communicate with members of Congress on current federal matters critical to the population research community. Many Members are conducting virtual Town Hall meetings in the coming weeks, and you can find information on these events and/or submit a message to your legislator via their web site. Click on the “Find Your Senators” or “Find Your Representative” links on this PAA resource page to access your lawmakers’ web sites.
If you need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Mary Jo Hoeksema, Director, PAA Government Affairs, at email@example.com.