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Sept 3 -- The Census Bureau invites public comments by November 2, 2021 regarding its plans for the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to be conducted in conjunction with the February, March, and April Current Population Survey (CPS).  
 
The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics sponsor the ASEC, which had its beginnings in 1942. The current clearance expires December 31, 2021. The ASEC data collection questions remain largely unchanged from its most recent collection in 2021, however, there are minor changes and additions requested. The changes are limited to questions on stimulus payments, free and reduced price school lunch, pandemic school meals, and advanced child tax credit payments.

Information on work experience, personal income, noncash benefits, current and previous year health insurance coverage, employer-sponsored insurance take-up, and migration is collected through the ASEC. The work experience items in the ASEC provide a unique measure of the dynamic nature of the labor force as viewed over a one-year period. These items produce statistics that show movements in and out of the labor force by measuring the number of periods of unemployment experienced by people, the number of different employers worked for during the year, the principal reasons for unemployment, and part-/full-time attachment to the labor force. We can make indirect measurements of discouraged workers and others with a casual attachment to the labor market.

The income data from the ASEC are used by social planners, economists, government officials, and market researchers to gauge the economic well-being of the country as a whole, and selected population groups of interest. Government planners and researchers use these data to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of various assistance programs. Market researchers use these data to identify and isolate potential customers. Social planners use these data to forecast economic conditions and to identify special groups that seem to be especially sensitive to economic fluctuations. Economists use ASEC data to determine the effects of various economic forces, such as inflation, recession, recovery, and so on, and their differential effects on various population groups.

The ASEC is the official source of national poverty estimates calculated in accordance with the Office of Management and Budget's Statistical Policy Directive 14. Two other important national estimates derived from the ASEC are real median household income and the number and percent of individuals without health insurance coverage.

The ASEC also contains questions related to: (1) Medical expenditures; (2) presence and cost of a mortgage on property; (3) child support payments; and (4) amount of child care assistance received. These questions enable analysts and policymakers to obtain better estimates of family and household income, and more precisely gauge poverty status.
 
The instrument questionnaire, which is mostly unchanged since its redesign in 2015, will consist of some changes compared to the collection in 2021.  These changes are summarized here.

•    A minor wording change to the legacy free and reduced school lunch question (Q83) to reflect current program rules.
•    A modification to the pandemic school meals question (ECVDMEAL) to capture receipt of debit cards under the P-EBT program and expand the universe for the question to include all households with children 5 to 18.
•    Simplify the stimulus payment question (ECVD_EIP) related to the Economic Impact Payment from the Federal Government, and remove two follow-up questions asking about who was covered and the dollar amount (ECVD_COV and ECVD_AMT).
•    Addition of two questions that ask about Advanced Child Tax Credit payments received.

The slight change to the free and reduced school lunch question is necessary to reflect USDA FNS’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).  CEP allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications.  For the 2021-2022 school year, more than 30,000 school were eligible for the program.

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) is part of the U.S. government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 (PL 116–127), as amended by the Continuing Appropriations Act 2021 and Other Extensions Act (PL 116-159), the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (PL 116-260), and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (PL 117-2) provides the Secretary of Agriculture authority to approve state agency plans to administer P-EBT. Through P-EBT, eligible school children receive temporary emergency nutrition benefits loaded on EBT cards that are used to purchase food. Children who would have received free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Act if their schools were not closed or operating with reduced hours or attendance for at least 5 consecutive days are eligible to receive P-EBT benefits.

The expanded and newly-advanceable Child Tax Credit was authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, enacted in March 2021.  For 2021 this credit has been expanded to $3,000 per child for dependents ages 6 through 17 and $3,600 per child for dependents age 5 and under, up from $2,000 per child in the past.  Also, the credit is fully refundable for 2021. Before this year, the refundable portion was limited to $1,400 per child. From July through December 2021, up to half the credit will be advanced to eligible families by Treasury and the IRS.   Eligible families can choose to decline receiving the advance payments.  The IRS estimated that in the first month roughly $15 billion was paid out to families that include nearly 60 million eligible children. Experts have projected the American Rescue Plan will lift more than five million children out of poverty this year, cutting child poverty by more than half.  

Census ASEC website: https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/time-series/demo/cps/cps-asec.html
CPS ASEC Table Creator: https://www.census.gov/cps/data/cpstablecreator.html
Draft 2022 ASEC package, including items booklet (139 pages) and technical documentation: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3icxnlhmfcs948q/AAAwoDRCw_n_Ajb_unF3Q51ra?dl=0
FR notice inviting public comments:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/09/03/2021-19126/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for Comments may be submitted through this site.
 
Point of contact: Lisa Cheok, U.S. Census Bureau  (301) 763-3806 dsd.cps@census.gov

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