WASHINGTON -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today pushed for the release of updated Census data on minority-owned businesses across the country.

In a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau, Kerry asked Director Charles Kincannon for assistance in expediting the release of much-needed minority business Census data from a 2002 survey. The most recently available data was obtained by the Census Bureau in 1997.

“It is unthinkable that the Administration is developing policies to help minority-owned businesses using seven-year old data,” Kerry said. “To rebuild the economies of underserved areas, we must direct sufficient business development resources to these communities,” Kerry said. “Accurate and up-to-date information is critical to this process.”

The Census Bureau is currently compiling the data from the 2002 survey but does not plan to release the information until December, well after the congressional appropriations process is complete and when data would be essentially useless in informing Congress of the funding necessities of minority business programs for fiscal year 2006.

In April, the National Urban League released its report on the “State of Black America,” highlighting the need to address the high unemployment rate in the African-American community and the growing wealth gap across the country. In his letter, Kerry argued that efforts to respond are hampered, in part, because of outdated statistics.

“Seven-year-old data is not effective in painting an accurate picture of the current challenges facing minority firms. However, because newer data has not been made available, the outdated data is still being used to develop reports such as the ‘Dynamics of Minority-Owned Employer Establishments,’ released in February by the SBA,” Kerry wrote.

Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau is used by the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the Small Business Administration (SBA) and other federal agencies to analyze and monitor the growth of minority firms. However, the agencies currently only have access to the 1997 survey.

To read Kerry’s letter, please click here.