FY 2022 LHHS Testimony

On May 19, 2021, COPAFS submitted testimony with specific funding requests for NCHS, NCES, and BLS to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

Fiscal Year 2022 Testimony on behalf of the
Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS)
Submitted to House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations
Paul Schroeder, Executive Director, COPAFS

Thank you, Chair DeLauro and Ranking Member Cole for providing this opportunity to express support for the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As part of our goal to advance excellence in federal statistics, COPAFS has a strong interest in ensuring that these three principal federal agencies can accomplish their respective missions and provide accurate, reliable, and timely data, not just to academics and researchers, but also to the public. A strong federal statistical system is critical to safeguarding American citizens’ faith in science and providing them with reliable statistics which reflect our government’s efforts to create a stronger nation for all Americans. It is in this spirit that COPAFS urges the Subcommittee to adopt the following funding recommendations in FY22: $200 million, NCHS; $300 million, NCES; and $800 million, BLS.

National Center for Health Statistics

The mission of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) is to provide statistical information that will guide actions and policies to improve the health of the American people. COPAFS endorses the Friends of NCHS recommendation of $200 million being allocated to NCHS in FY2022. Policymakers and the American people are confronted with an ever-increasing amount of health data from an expanding number of public and private sources. The NCHS has provided objective, reliable health statistics for 60 years but currently lacks the resources to meet both the challenges of updating their existing national survey and data

collection systems and linking them with the exploding availability of data to meet the demand for more timely and location-specific statistics. Specifically, NCHS seeks to:

  • Create an Electronic Health Record (EHR)-based platform to generate population estimates and create a single data repository for EHR data that results in less time spent on data processing and more time for analysis and provision of timely and detailed morbidity data;
  • Improve data quality and timeliness within vital statistics by funding states to develop new electronic systems and helping states upgrade their registration systems as well as upgrade internal NCHS systems to support real time reporting and data dissemination for public health action at all levels of government; and
  • Expand data linkage and integration and explore broader use of synthetic data to ensure confidentiality while expanding access to linked files.

Finally, COPAFS encourages the Subcommittee to take steps to ensure that NCHS receives a greater share of funds from the Data Modernization Initiative (DMI). To date, the agency has received less than 4% of the $600M the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received since FY2020.

National Center for Education Statistics

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the Department of Education’s (ED) Institute of Education Sciences (IES) provides objective, reliable, and trustworthy statistics about the condition of education through administrative data collections, statistical surveys, longitudinal studies, and assessments. NCES is the trusted entity naturally positioned to place such diverse sources of data in context to produce actionable information—giving policymakers

and the public insights into the condition and progress of education in their communities. NCES has recently faced significant budget constraints due to relatively flat funding that limit the agency’s ability to fully analyze available survey data and meet the rising demand for more timely and location-specific statistics. Given that the NCES budget has depreciated in purchasing power by 15% since 2010, COPAFS recommends NCES receive $300 million in FY2022. The agency faces a serious shortage of full-time equivalent staff (FTE) trained in statistical science. In 2020, the agency had fewer than 95 FTEs to manage its $260+ million statistics and assessment budget line. This is nine times the median ratio of other principal federal statistical agencies. Because of both budget and staff constraints, NCES faces particular challenges whenever additional or alternative opportunities are presented, such as:

  • Redesigning and restoring the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF)
  • Developing new data designs to address specific problems and populations;
  • Beginning a new cycle of a longstanding longitudinal series; or Beginning a new cycle of a longstanding longitudinal series; or
  • Expanding on data sharing and linkages that could make existing data more complete and useful.

To meet these challenges head on, NCES needs to gain back a good portion of its purchasing power which has significantly eroded over the past 11 years.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measures labor market activity, working conditions, price changes, and productivity in the U.S. economy to support public and private decision making. Policymakers and the American people make decisions in a dynamic economy, much of which is measured by BLS statistics. Many BLS data programs have served the American people

for decades, but there is a need for objective high frequency data to track continuous economic shifts. In an increasingly digitized and analytically capable economy, BLS products grow more important, as have calls to improve their timeliness and granularity without sacrificing reliability and methodological soundness. Although annual appropriations for BLS have increased recently, the total purchasing power of the BLS budget has shrunk by 13% since FY 2009. In light of this, COPAFS endorses the Friends of BLS recommendation of $800 million being allocated to BLS in FY2022. Specifically, COPAFS supports an innovative investment to work with states and the Employment and Training Administration to upgrade the quality of state Unemployment Insurance (UI) worker wage and claims records and to grant BLS access to those state-owned administrative records, with permission to share data back to the states. Adding these assets to our statistical infrastructure would enable BLS and the states to produce far more granular, timely, and agile labor market information. In addition, we support expanding BLS’s data modernization and data linkage activities by creating a BLS Data Science Center and a second Electronic Data Collection Facility. These two initiatives will go a long way toward lowering reporting burdens on employers, and making full use of all data collected (including UI records), such as providing insight into labor market inequities and the future of work. COPAFS supports redesigning the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX), which provides critical information on Americans’ spending patterns. The new CEX would have an expanded sample and allow more frequent updating of market baskets for inflation measures. Finally, we endorse BLS enrolling a new, and overdue, survey cohort for the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The two active cohorts currently contain respondents born between 1957-64 (NLSY79) and respondents born between 1980-84 (NLSY97). A new cohort is needed at this time to continue to provide insights over time for the next generation.

Thank you for your consideration of COPAFS’s support for NCHS, NCES, and BLS as the Subcommittee drafts the FY 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill.