Grijalva, Territorial Delegates Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Disparities in Data Collection for U.S. Territories
Today, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and the delegates of the five U.S. Territories—Rep. Aumua Amata Radewagen (R-American Samoa), Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Rep. Jim Moylan (R-Guam), Rep. Jenniffer González Colón (R-Puerto Rico), and Rep. Stacey E. Plaskett (D-USVI)— introduced the bipartisan Territories Statistics Collection Equity Act to address disparities in available data and data collection methods relating to the U.S. Territories. The bill was first introduced in the previous Congress.
The full text of the Territories Statistics Collection Equity Act is available here.
A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.
The Territories Statistics Collection Equity Act would address data disparities for the U.S. Territories by directing the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP) to develop and implement a plan to collect and publish statistics regarding the U.S. Territories in the same manner as states. The ICSP advises the Office of Management and Budget in setting statistical policy and facilitates coordination across numerous federal statistical systems.
“Our policy decisions are only as good as the data that inform them,” said Grijalva. “As long as our data collection for U.S. Territories is incomplete and out-of-date, residents will continue to be denied the equitable access to resources they deserve. I’m grateful to stand alongside all five territorial delegates on this bill and urge my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this legislation forward quickly.”
Complete and accurate population, economic, labor force, and agricultural data for the U.S. Territories is severely lacking, leading to underfunding and underrepresentation of the territories in certain federal programs. A December 2022 brief from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and Equally American highlighted how insufficient data about the U.S. Territories prevents policymakers from making informed decisions for residents on issues like education, health care, and emergency preparedness. With residents of U.S territories being predominantly people of color, failing to correct these data issues deepens existing racial justice and equity issues.
Inconsistent data collection methods for U.S. Territories across federal agencies are partly to blame for incomplete data. In addition, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently found that major crises, like hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic, have created data collection issues for the territories. In April 2022, Ranking Member Grijalva requested that GAO conduct a more comprehensive review of data collection gaps for U.S. Territories and how those gaps have affected federal funding.
Statements of Support
Equally American, a non-partisan organization that advocates for equal rights and representation for the 3.5 million people living in U.S. Territories, stated:
“When the federal government fails to treat residents of U.S. territories the same as residents of other U.S. jurisdictions in federal data collection, it sends the message that they do not count - both literally and figuratively. Whether you live in a State, Territory, or the District of Columbia should not impact how you and your community are counted in the U.S. Census and other federal statistics.”
Climate Strong Islands Network, a locally led network of U.S. Island entities that work to expand resources, support policy reform, improve infrastructure, and promote climate change mitigation and adaptation in each of the U.S. Island regions, stated:
“The Climate Strong Islands Network (CSIN) applauds Ranking Member Grijalva and the delegates of the five U.S. Territories for introducing this important bipartisan bill. Like U.S. states, the Territories need consistent and timely data across federal agencies to make sure our communities don’t get left behind. Equitable data collection for U.S. Territories will increase access to vital federal programs and support key policy decisions. The Territories Statistics Collection Equity Act will address the existing inadequacies of the current data collection processes and account for the unique qualities and needs of the U.S. Territories. CSIN looks forward to working with Ranking Member Grijalva and the delegates to pass this critical legislation.”
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