SOMERVILLE, NJ - Mayor Dennis Sullivan and two members of the Borough Council who are running for re-election in November went door-to-door Saturday morning at two apartment complexes to hand out bi-lingual flyers in an effort to increase residents' participation in the 2020 Census.
They were to have been joined by Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-7th, but the congressman had to cancel to tend to legislative matters in Washington, according to his campaign chairman, Daniel Fleiss.
The response by Somerville residents to the 2020 Census is stuck under 70 percent, according to Sullivan, and with millions of dollars in potential grants and loan assistance at stake from the federal government, that's not good enough.
“A lot of federal money will be lost to Somerville for the next ten years if our true population is not counted,” the mayor said. ”It is estimated that for every missed resident, it could cost $1,800 each in lost federal dollars from Washington every year, money we count on to fund essential services. That means higher taxes for property owners and higher rents for tenants, and nobody wants that.”
The mayor, along with Democratic Councilman Fred Wied V and Councilman Gran Brady, both of whom are running for re-election, distributed the flyers prepared by the Somerset County Planning Office at Lauren Gardens Apartments, 150 South Bridge St., and next door at South Bridge Gardens Apartments, 152 South Bridge St.
The flyers remind residents of the importance of the census along with step-by-step instructions on the registration process.
Eventually the Census Bureau will send out their representatives to knock on doors, but that schedule has not yet been finalized, according to Sullivan.
“New Jersey only gets back about 82 cents for every tax dollar we send down to Washington,” Sullivan said. “We have only one chance to get this right until the year 2030. If a little time and shoe leather will add to our numbers, Fred, Gran and I are glad to help.”
"Nobody wants to be left out in school, when choosing a softball team or at dinner,yet more than 30 percent of Somerville residents are being left out simply because they haven't completed the 2020 Census," Brady said. "Every 10 years America takes a head count of everyone living here in April. This year the census began on April 2 and about 60 percent of you responded through your computer," he added.
"Why do I have to take the Census? First of all, it's the law," Brady continued. "Everyone has to be counted and it doesn't matter if you are a citizen or a visitor. Wherever you are living on April 2 is the question asked by the Census. Your answers remain anonymous and are used only for gathering data."
The results are necessary for planning purposes that includes how much funding will be given by the government, how many representatives our state will have in Congress and other important programs. Census results are used when planning nutrition assistance for children and funding our schools, Brady explained.
"The roads you see repaved are paid to some degree by state and federal funds that depended on Census data. And companies use census data to determine what communities they want to invest in like some of the development that has happened in town. New development can improve our tax base and allow the Borough to pay for improvements that would not be possible without accurate information," Brady said.
Brady, as council Fianance Chairman, oversees the borough's budget and payment of bills.
"We draft an annual budget that relies upon payment of local taxes. If you are a renter, taxes are paid on your behalf by your landlord. It is important to remember that if Somerville doesn't get its fair share of grants because government agencies have undercounted the number of people in town, then we will all pay higher taxes and get fewer services," Brady said.
Residents can fill out a short questionnaire online at www.2020census.gov