BUILDING ON TWO-YEARS OF IMPORTANT PROGRESS, WHITE HOUSE AAPI INITIATIVE TO EXPAND ITS REACH INTO EVEN MORE COMMUNITIES
WASHINGTON – Newly designated co-chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu today said the Obama Administration has opened doors for many AAPIs and plans to expand its outreach to even more communities in need of federal services and protections. Lu, who now co-chairs the Initiative with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, joined Initiative director Kiran Ahuja on a conference call with reporters today to discuss the state of the White House Initiative at the two-year anniversary of its reauthorization by President Obama and to outline plans to take its outreach to the next level.
Noting the White House Initiative’s extraordinary progress breaking down barriers and creating a greater understanding of the community’s needs across the federal government, Ahuja highlighted the White House AAPI Initiative’s historic accomplishments on the call.
“When the White House Initiative was reestablished by President Obama, we didn’t just face a small hill of problems, we faced a massive mountain of challenges in the midst of a national crisis, but we’ve clearly started to climb and make real progress for people across the country,” said Ahuja. “We’ve connected and listened to hundreds of community leaders across the country and opened doors for hundreds of thousands of people who need programs and services now more than ever.”
In the last two-years, the Initiative hosted hundreds of roundtables, meetings, workshops and several national summits in 50 cities across dozens of states, gathering input from tens of thousands of AAPIs. Based on those discussions, the Initiative worked closely with more than 23 federal agencies and executive offices to create and implement historic plans to increase AAPI access to programs and services. As a result, the Initiative increased access to vital economic, health, educational and other resources.
Working with partners throughout the Obama Administration, the White House Initiative helped launch a program to increase the number of senior- and mid-level AAPI managers in government; more than doubled support for higher educational institutions that serve AAPIs; and pushed new data-collection standards to help serve underserved communities, providing national employment data for specific AAPI communities for the first-time.
The Initiative, working with representatives from agencies across the federal government, helped set new standards to reduce health disparities; increase the number of government resources available in more languages; and improve the process to integrate new immigrants to the country. It also worked with offices to help deliver resources to prevent bullying and harassment that disproportionately impacts AAPI students. This month, the Initiative is also releasing a new comprehensive guide to help AAPIs access federal resources for their communities.
When it became clear that salon workers, many of whom are AAPI, were exposed to unique health and safety dangers, the Initiative helped the Environmental Protection Agency bring several federal offices together to respond, as it did when it advised agencies on how to overcome language barriers in responding to the needs of AAPI fishers and workers devastated by the Gulf oil spill.
Last week, President Obama designated his long-term advisor Christopher Lu to work withSecretary Duncan as co-chair of the White House Initiative. President Obama also appointed Olympic skating champion Apolo Ohno, labor leader May Chen and Dr. Tung Thanh Nguyen, adding new members to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which works closely with the Initiative.
On today’s call, Lu’s first as co-chair of the Initiative, Lu said that the White House Initiative has made great progress to improve the economic, health and educational status of the people it represents, but that it’s easy given the strengths of these communities to overlook very real challenges many of them face. Lu outlined a vision to expand the Initiative’s reach into even more communities.
“We’re building on our successes and taking the White House Initiative’s work to the next level to serve those who need vital services now more than ever,” said Lu. “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are now the fastest growing race in America, and the Obama Administration understands the urgent need to address this population’s concerns head-on, especially in the face of difficult economic conditions. We also realize that the federal government can’t do this alone, so we’re launching a coordinated response to make sure even more people across the country have access to the federal services and protections they need.”
Lu said the Initiative plans to bring even more AAPIs together with the Obama Administration — reaching out to AAPIs who live in hard to reach areas, newer immigrants, refugee communities, and emerging pockets of the population. The plan includes developing relationships with more stakeholders and creating new partnerships to leverage the combined power of community and business leaders, while providing greater technical assistance to access federal resources the Obama Administration has made available.
With nationwide unemployment at an unacceptably high rate – and at least 235,000 AAPIs out of work for more than six months – Lu said inaction is not an option, pointing to President Obama’s plan to increase the pace of job creation, the American Jobs Act, as an immediate solution.
The extension of unemployment insurance in the American Jobs Act would benefit at least 300,000 AAPIs and their families; provide targeted support for the long-term unemployed that would help at least 235,000 AAPIs who have been looking for work for more than six months. The American Jobs Act would also provide support for subsidized jobs and summer/year-round jobs for Asian American youth – for whom unemployment is above 13.8 percent – and extend and expand the payroll tax cut for 7.6 million AAPI workers.
The White House Initiative has several events and activities planned this month to celebrate its accomplishments under President Obama and to expand its efforts:
- On Friday, October 14, White House Initiative co-chair Chris Lu, director Kiran Ahuja and more than a dozen federal officials and members of the President’s AAPI Advisory Commission will gather with hundreds of community leaders and members in Henderson, Nevada for a town hall meeting to discuss the Obama Administration’s efforts to create jobs, strengthen small businesses, preserve home ownership and expand housing opportunities.
- On Friday, October 14, members of the President’s AAPI Advisory Commission will also hold an online town hall meeting from Henderson, Nevada to address the concerns of young AAPIs across the country and discuss the Initiative’s historic accomplishments and vision for the future. Participants can submit questions anytime on Twitter using #WHIAAPITownHall.
- On Friday, October 28, White House Initiative co-chairs Chris Lu and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will join California Assemblyman Mike Eng and dozens of issue experts and researchers in Washington, D.C. to discuss new ways to overcome barriers for AAPIs using new data collection methods.
- On Saturday, October 29, the White House Initiative will bring together hundreds of parents, teachers, counselors, students and community and business leaders from across the country in New York City for a Bullying Prevention Summit to discuss bullying and harassment issues which disproportionately affect AAPI and Muslim American communities.
- Tuesday, November 1 is the deadline to submit videos for the Initiative’s month-long challenge called “What’s Your Story?” The effort asks participants to highlight community service by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders whose dedication to a cause has made a difference in a 3-minute video or essay about unique experiences that have shaped who they are. Entries can be submitted online at www.whitehouse.gov/whatsyourstory. Select entries will be posted on the White House website and a group of exceptional AAPI leaders highlighted in the effort will be selected to attend a White House briefing this fall to share their stories.