By Yukari Sumino
Northwest Asian Weekly
Organizations representing and serving Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across the country joined together on March 17 to express their concerns regarding proposed cuts to federal support for essential services for seniors, children, and low-income people.
Community leaders gathered at press conferences in San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Los Angeles each held press conferences. Hyeok Kim, Mark Okazaki, Maiko Winkler-Chin, Tony To, Diane Narasaki, Scott Allen Peck, Jeffrey Hattori, and Teresita Batayola were the AAPI representatives in Seattle. They made speeches about their organizations.
“It is important that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders speak out in this debate. That is why we are joining together across the country to explain how these cuts will hurt families, children, and seniors,” says Hyeok Kim, executive director of InterIm CDA, a nonprofit neighborhood development organization. “We understand the U.S. government has a lot of debt, so they need the budget cuts. However, our services are essential and fundamental.”
With the country still recovering from the worst recession in years, Congress is now considering a budget proposal that would lay off teachers, health care workers, and others. It would eliminate or sharply cut back programs for seniors, children, and working families. The proposal, already approved by the House of Representatives, would cut food programs, children centers, and schools.
Job training programs across the country would be shut down. Critical and affordable housing programs will end, and health clinics will close. The proposal will come in addition to state and local government cutbacks to programs and services.
The Senate has rejected the proposal, but there is currently no alternative. House and Senate leadership have only agreed on a temporary extension of the present budget. Now, the government faces the possibility of a government shutdown if an agreement on a budget is not reached.
AAPI organizations maintain that all poor and low-income communities will be hurt by the proposed cuts.
“The House proposal would eliminate funding for senior housing, the only jobs program targeting seniors, and sharply reduce support, from giants to local communities that fund senior centers, food pantries, and social services,” says Scott Allen Peck, from the National Asian Pacific Center for Aging.
“The House of Representatives would severely cut funding for community health centers. It is estimated that the reduction would eliminate access to primary care services for 11 million at-risk patients,” says Teresita Batayola, from the International Community Health Services. “We should not accept these budget cuts easily. We need to contact Congress.”
A letter, signed by more than 70 organizations representing AAPI from 15 states, was delivered to Senate Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Daniel Inouye. This letter expressed concerns over the budget proposal and opposition to the cuts to essential programs. Another set of letters are planned for other senators and representatives.
“This is the very time when our communities cooperate together. Our solidarity is strong,” said Hattori, of Nikkei Concerns. ♦
Yukari Sumino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.