By Gina Martinez
Members of the 15% & Growing Campaign gathered on the steps of City Hall last week demanding an increase of funding for the Asian Pacific-American community in New York City.
The campaign, whose 15% represents the 1.3 million Asians that make up the city’s population, is led by the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families and unites over 45 Asian-led and serving organizations in the city to advocate for a fair budget. Nearly 300 community members, advocates and elected officials, including Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) were at the rally that fell on the 10th Annual Asian Pacific American City Advocacy Day.
According to 15% and Growing, nearly 25 percent of Asian Americans live in poverty, the highest poverty rate across all ethnic groups in the city. Those struggling with poverty are more likely to be recently arrived immigrants, with limited English-speaking skills. The campaign argued that the city has to increase funding and support to services that promote the economic vitality of some of the city’s most vulnerable members.
15% and Growing said in 2018 APA organizations received only 4.06 percent of all discretionary funding despite the community’s growth and vast needs. An increase in funding would help expand initiatives that focus on services for children, the elderly, immigrants, as well as immigrant services, health and well-being, housing security, and violence prevention and intervention.
Koo said APA immigrants who face language and cultural barriers come into his office every day in search of basic assistance because they don’t know where to turn.
“As this population continues to grow, so must the support structures that ensure they have access to better opportunities in life.”
15% and Growing said City Council discretionary funding is a crucial resource for small community-based organizations and often the first city funding organizations can access. Organizers of the campaign met with 20 City Council members and discussed two initiatives, the first being the Communities of Color Nonprofit Stabilization Fund, which addresses the need for capacity-building funding for nonprofit organizations in these communities. For 2019, campaign members are requesting that the City Council continue this initiative and increase the allocation from $3.7 million to $5 million.
They also asked the Council to support the Access Health NYC initiative and increase the allocation to $2.5 million. This initiative helps train frontline staff from community-based organizations across the city to provide culturally appropriate and language accessible outreach and education about health resources and services. Almost 15 percent of the city’s Asian Pacific Americans ages 18 and over are uninsured and over 89 percent of uninsured APAs are foreign-born, according to 15% and Growing.
John Park, the co-director of MinKwon Center for Community Action in Flushing, said Asian Pacific Americans are the fastest growing population in the city with the highest foreign-born population at 78 percent. The APA community also has the fastest growing senior population, the highest rates of poverty for the working age population since 2007, and the highest rates of limited English proficiency.
“These unique challenges translate directly to the unique challenges faced by APA led and serving organizations,” he said. “As our community grows, so do our needs — Initiative funding, particularly the Nonprofit Stabilization Fund supports and ensures community groups like ours continue to provide more vital social and economic services to NYC’s most vulnerable communities.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart