This coming weekend, May 1st-3rd, is Digital Action Weekend for the US Census! As Covid-19 has hampered door to door canvassing the Census Bureau is undertaking this monumental campaign to get Americans to complete the Census online at www.census.gov.

By now we all know that the Census is a constitutional requirement, article 1, section 2. We also know the Census determines how many seats in the US House of Representatives are apportioned to each state. In the modern era, however, the Census is about much, much more.

The Census collects data on household size and income, educational attainment and language or languages spoken within a household and more. This data is used to craft funding formulas for federal programs from Pell Grants to housing, Medicare to highways. According to the Tax Policy Center “the Census also affects up to $900 billion in grants, direct payments, loans, and loan guarantees that the federal government distributes annually to states…”

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Others place the amount that the Census is responsible for at up to 1.3 trillion.

Yes. The Census is used to dole out money, your money. If you have ever wondered where the money goes and why, the Census is your opportunity to influence those decisions - for an entire decade.

New Jersey residents send $24.9 billion dollars to the federal government than we receive in return. As was reported in TAP in 2019, property taxes in West Orange rose to 8.5%, well above the 2% cap. Many residents (myself included) had to pay thousands extra, known as a “short” in mortgage lingo, as a result of this property tax increase.

And, it’s not just home-owners who feel the pinch, property tax increases also hurts renters as landlords seek to share the pain by hiking rents.

West Orange is a great town with a special place in American history. We are a diverse community of upper, middle income and lower income residents. In West Orange, an accurate Census count could go a long way towards reversing the upward trajectory our property taxes. Census data is used by the federal government to decide how much money to spend, where to spend it and on which programs.

We need households in West Orange, of every socio-economic strata, to participate in the Census. Do it for our state which is getting shafted, do it for West Orange to make sure that we get our fair share of funding for our schools, police, parks, environment, roads and infrastructure.

Brent Scott is a resident of West Orange and a member of the West Orange Complete Count Committee.