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Ogden City employees Diana Lopez, left, and Viviana Felix help run a U.S. Census Bureau booth in the city center to encourage participation in the 2020 headcount on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. As part of an initiative between the city and the Census Bureau, those who filled out their forms at the booth on Wednesday could get a coupon good for two free tacos at the stand behind Lopez and Felix. Lopez and Felix serve on a city committee formed to spur participation in the headcount.

OGDEN — The final push is on to get more Ogden residents to fill out their 2020 U.S. census forms.

Census workers last month started knocking on the doors of Utah homes that haven’t yet responded to encourage participation, and officials in Ogden are augmenting their efforts to get the response rate up. On Wednesday, that entailed giving out free food in the city center to those willing to complete the form on the spot — fill out the questionnaire and get a coupon good for two free tacos.

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As part of an initiative between the City of Ogden and the U.S. Census Bureau, those who filled out their census forms on Wednesday could get a coupon good for two free tacos at one of two taco stands in the city center. This stand sits on 26th Street, west of Washington Boulevard.

Viviana Felix, part of the committee promoting census participation in Ogden and the city’s diversity affairs officer, said the aim was to reach out directly to those who aren’t filling out forms, to meet them on their own turf. The headcount formally kicked off last March and the deadline to fill out census forms is Sept. 30, the end of the month.

“Coming out to the places where they gather, where they eat,” Felix said.

Every little bit counts — around 16 people had accepted the taco offer midway through the initiative on Wednesday — and Ogden could use a boost. As of Tuesday, the response rate in Ogden to the count totaled 64.4%, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. That’s 15th-lowest among Weber County’s 16 incorporated locales and a couple percentage points below the 66.4% response rate in 2010, according to the 2020 Census Hard To Count map, which tracks response rates now and 10 years ago around the country.

“We’re trying to get that up a couple points so we’re on par with the 2010 census. We’d like to exceed that,” said Mike McBride, also part of the city’s census committee and a communications official for Ogden.

The headcount can be completed online for the first time this cycle and the highest response so far in Weber County is from Hooper, where 85.1% of households had responded. Huntsville sat at the bottom of the list with a 60.8% rate. The response rate totaled 71% across Weber County (seventh-highest among Utah’s 29 counties), 80.3% in neighboring Davis County (top in the state) and 69.6% in Utah as a whole (tied for eighth-highest in the nation).

The stakes are big. A lot of federal money is disbursed based on the population figures that come from the once-every-10-years headcount, so if a locale doesn’t count every person, it can get shortchanged. Moreover, the population figures are used in defining the districts of political leaders, which bears on representation.

“Getting it done right this time is important,” said McBride, because the next headcount won’t come until 2030.

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Colby Child, a U.S. Census Bureau worker, mans a booth outside the Ogden Municipal Building to encourage participation in the 2020 headcount on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. As part of an initiative with the City of Ogden on Wednesday, those who filled out their forms could get a coupon good for two free tacos at the stand in front of Child.

Felix isn’t sure if the city, which covered the cost of the taco plan, will try it again. Census workers were on hand to help out, using tablets to assist those wanting to fill their forms for tacos outside two stands operated in the city center by Taqueria La Tapatia. One sits on Washington Boulevard in front of the Ogden Municipal Building, the other is around the corner on 26th Street. Those interested could also fill out the form on their smartphones, showing the confirmation page proving they completed the questionnaire to get the food.

But there will be additional efforts to get the word out. Felix said city officials are in talks with Ogden school officials about some sort of initiative. Beyond that, more than 1,700 census workers will be knocking on doors around Utah through the end of the month, trying to get those who haven’t done so to fill out their forms.

“In most cases, Census workers will make multiple attempts at each housing unit to count residents in that household,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday. The workers wear face coverings, are trained in social-distancing protocols and will leave notices behind with information on how to respond if no one is at home.

The form may be filled out online at 2020census.gov.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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