The Trump administration acknowledged on Thursday that billions more dollars are "urgently needed" to ensure a fair and accurate count during the 2020 Census.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a House panel that new cost estimates show the 2020 Census will cost $15.6 billion, about 27 percent more than earlier projections.
Among the factors for the higher cost estimates, according to Ross, are tightening labor markets and overly optimistic projections from the Obama administration about the savings new technology would provide.
The census, which is required by the Constitution, determines the number of seats in Congress each state receives and how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending is distributed.
"We are now just 30 months away from the 2020 Census. There are still many challenges ahead. These additional resources I have described are urgently needed," Ross told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In the end, Ross said that if the Congress provides the additional resources requested, "I'm confident we'll have a full, fair and accurate Census."
Some lawmakers aren't so optimistic. Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland said "we must recognize the gravity of the situation we are facing."
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While Ross pinned some of the blame on the current state of preparedness on the Obama administration, Cummings said Congress deserves much of the blame. It has provided less funding than the agency requested every year since 2012. It failed to acknowledge two key drivers of cost increases, inflation and population growth, while overestimating how much money could be saved through new technology, he said.
"The problem is that when you starve the Census Bureau year after year, it cannot make the investments needed to implement these innovations," Cummings said.