Members of the AAPI Equity Coalition meet with AAPI Equity Budget co-sponsor Senator John Liu (center) at his Albany office.
As the New York State legislature continued to debate its budget for the coming year, staff from CIANA went to Albany on Monday, April 4 to join the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF), the Chinese Planning Council (CPC), and Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC), in pushing lawmakers to include the $64.5 million AAPI Equity Budget.
Sponsored by Senator John Liu and Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, the AAPI Equity Budget aims to strengthen Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities by, among other things, improving access to English language services, expanding pandemic relief programs, and increasing funding to community-based organizations that are led by and serve AAPI community members.
CIANA has been part of the AAPI Equity Coalition, a group of AAPI-led organizations throughout New York who support the budget proposal, since February. We joined our partners at the Capitol to ensure and reaffirm support from State Senators and Assembly Members.
CIANA, CACF, CPC, and KAFSC met with several legislators and their staff to inform them about the proposal and encourage them to support it in this year’s budget, such as Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez of the Bronx. Our coalition also thanked Senators and Assembly Members who have already expressed support, including Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani of Astoria, Queens
(pictured second from left).
Why is there a need for the AAPI Equity Budget?
Composing 18 percent of New York City’s total population and 11 percent of New York State’s, AAPI communities are the fastest growing demographic in both. They come from East, South, and Central Asia, the Pacific Islands, and parts of the Middle East, as well as diasporic communities in Hawaii and the Caribbean. Despite their significant presence, however, the numerous challenges they face have historically and presently been ignored.
Asian Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing a higher-than-average COVID positivity rate, death toll, and lack of access to vaccines. In addition, they have experienced a steep yet unremedied uptick in hate crimes since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and continuing into this year.
CBOs that support AAPI communities are typically underfunded, which prevents community members from accessing social services, public benefits, legal assistance, and other necessary services to enhance their quality of life in the U.S.
This has also impacted their ability to recover from the pandemic. While state- and citywide initiatives such as the NYC Test and Trace Corps have sought to end the spread of the virus, promote vaccine equity, and provide relief services across the five boroughs, little attention has been given specifically to AAPI communities, and to the nonprofits who serve them.
What else has been done to get NY lawmakers to support this proposal?
During the week of March 28, CIANA participated in CACF’s 18 Percent and Growing campaign to educate the public on social media about the need for holistic funding for AAPI communities. While the campaign mainly focused on New York City, where AAPI folks comprise 18 percent of the population, it ties into the broader need for widespread investment in AAPI communities state- and nationwide.
When it became clear that the New York State budget would not be passed by its April 1 deadline, CIANA decided to join our partners in Albany to communicate directly with lawmakers about the need to include the full $64.5 million proposal in the finalized budget.
What comes next?
On April 7, nearly a week after the budget was due, Governor Hochul reached a deal with lawmakers about her budget priorities. While it was unclear where the AAPI Equity Budget fit in, her proposal left out funding for healthcare coverage for undocumented children and an expanded Excluded Workers Fund, both of which, like the AAPI proposal, target historically underserved immigrant populations.
AAPI New Yorkers are the fastest growing population in New York and compose a significant portion of CIANA's clients. CIANA’s mission since our founding in 2006 has been to serve hard-to-reach populations from the Middle East and South Asia. Our client base would benefit greatly from a fully funded AAPI Equity Budget.
Ultimately, $20 million were allocated for the AAPI Equity Budget when the state budget was finalized in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 9. While this is far less than the original requested amount of $64.5 million, it is still a generous investment in historically marginalized Asian American communities, and a significant step towards full inclusivity and equity.
Note: This piece was updated on 4/12 to reflect the finalization of the state budget on 4/9 and the inclusion of the AAPI Equity Budget within it.