Kal Penn Records PSAs in Three Languages to Encourage South Asian New Yorkers to Fill Out the Census

This PSA is part of NYC Census 2020’s effort to boost census self-response rates in neighborhoods with significant South Asian populations, including Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park  

NEW YORK  - NYC Census 2020 today released a series of new PSAs featuring actor, writer, and former Obama administration official Kal Penn. Penn recorded PSAs in three languages, English, Gujarati, and Hindi, highlighting the importance of completing the census to all New Yorkers, especially to those of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean descent. 

While more than half of New York City households have completed the census (53.1% as of July 7), neighborhoods with significant South Asian populations in Queens, including Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, and South Ozone Park, are significantly behind the city’s overall self-response rate, with self-response rates in the 42-44 percent range. This means that federal funding for critical services, such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and more are at risk for these neighborhoods.

The 2020 Census also determines each state’s share of congressional seats -- and New York stands to lose up to two congressional seats as a result of a potential undercount. The census also determines local district lines. New York City currently has no South Asian or Indo-Caribbean elected officials, despite South Asians being the fastest-growing immigrant group overall in the city, with significant populations in Queens, The Bronx, and Brooklyn. Accurate and fair districting will ensure that South Asians have representation that better reflects the needs of their community in the future.

“From his Hollywood experience as a former City Councilmember in Sunnyside to his real-life experience as a civil servant in the White House, Kal Penn understands the importance of New York getting its fair share of political representation,” said NYC Census Director Julie Menin and Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel, NYC Law Department. “We thank Kal for doing his part to make sure that New Yorkers know their immigration status or their housing situation should not prevent them from filling out the census. Their census responses are completely confidential and secure.” 

“If we don’t take the census, it’s like we don’t exist,” said Kal Penn in the PSA. “The census brings us billions for schools, hospitals, roads, and bridges, and a whole lot more – but only if we fill it out.”

“Despite being an indelible part of the city’s cultural fabric for decades, and now being among the fastest-growing immigrant groups in the city, South Asians and Indo-Caribbean communities have been under-funded and under-represented for decades as a result of being undercounted in the census,” said Amit S. Bagga, Deputy Director, NYC Census 2020. “The census is about money, power, and respect, and it is critical to New York City’s future that all of our communities are fully counted so that we can collectively achieve all that is rightfully ours.” 

While Penn is the first high-profile celebrity from New York’s South Asian community to participate in this campaign, NYC Census 2020 has partnered with many South Asian and Indo-Caribbean community-based organizations to boost the census count among those New Yorkers as part of the Complete Count Fund. 

Collectively, NYC’s South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities are among the largest, most diverse, and fastest-growing immigrant groups in New York City. Though South Asians and Indo-Caribbean groups have had a discernible presence in New York City since the 1960s, populations are continuing to rapidly grow and diversify, yielding new opportunities, challenges, and forms for community-based organizing. NYC Census 2020’s Complete Count Fund’s integrated government-and-community training approach is a first for the City and serves as the foundation for the City building an expansive and deep civic engagement infrastructure that is meant to outlast and grow beyond the census.

NYC Census 2020 has previously released PSAs featuring artists, celebrities, and public figures with strong ties to New York City, including singer Alicia Keys, rapper Cardi B, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Late Night host Seth Meyers, and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. These PSAs are part of a strategy to reach historically undercounted New Yorkers and encourage people to self-respond to the census online or via phone, especially during COVID-19. Recently NYC Census 2020 and Seamless, Grubhub’s NYC-specific brand, also announced a contest where winners will receive ten $1,000 gift cards to New York City residents who recently completed the 2020 Census.

New York City has made significant strides in census self-response rates, closing the gap with the rest of the nation. Today, New York City stands just 9 percentage points behind the national total -- an improvement of 5 percentage points from 2010, and an improvement of 2 percentage points from just over a month ago. 

Important Facts about the 2020 Census:

  • The census is safe, easy, and important—and completely confidential. If your landlord rents your apartment illegally, your response cannot be used against you or your landlord in any way. There is no citizenship question or question about your immigration status on the census. 
  • The census brings us more money for schools, hospitals, roads, and more. All you need is your address to fill it out.
  • The census is available online and by phone this year: my2020census.gov and 1-844-330-2020. You can complete your census from anywhere. You do not need a census form to fill out the census. All you need is your address to start the process at my2020census.gov.

About NYC Census 2020

NYC Census 2020 is a first-of-its-kind organizing initiative established by Mayor de Blasio in January 2019 to ensure a complete and accurate count of all New Yorkers in the 2020 Census. The $40 million program is built on four pillars: (1) a $19 million community-based awards program, The New York City Complete Count Fund, empowering 157 community-based organizations to engage historically undercounted communities around the 2020 Census; (2) an in-house "Get Out the Count" field campaign supported by the smart use of cutting-edge data and organizing technology, and a volunteer organizing program to promote a complete count in each of the city's 245 neighborhoods; (3) an innovative, multilingual, tailored messaging and marketing campaign, including a $3 million commitment to investing in community and ethnic media to reach every New York City community; as well as (4) an in-depth Agency and Partnerships engagement plan that seeks to leverage the power of the City's 350,000-strong workforce and the city's major institutions, including libraries, hospitals, faith-based communities, cultural institutions, higher educational institutions, and more, to communicate with New Yorkers about the critical importance of census participation. Through close partnerships with trusted leaders and organizations across the five boroughs, this unprecedented campaign represents the largest municipal investment in census organizing nationwide and will build an enduring structure that empowers New Yorkers to remain civically engaged.