Asian American Federation Report Shows Imbalance in City’s Contract Awards and Dollars to Asian American Organizations
New York City: The Asian American Federation released today its Analysis of City Government Funding to Social Service Organizations Serving the Asian American Community in NYC. While Asian Americans now make up close to 15 percent of New York City’s population, the Asian American community only received 1.4 percent of the contracts and just 3.1 percent of the contract dollars given by city agencies to social service providers in the past 13 years.
“This report clearly shows that the City needs to respond to the rapidly-changing demographics of our residents, especially for the newly-emerging Asian ethnicities,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation. “As our city leaders make plans about the current budget, we hope this report serves as an important guide to supporting programs that serve our City’s most vulnerable Asian residents,” added Yoo.
The report studied contracts awarded by the City’s six social service agencies: the Department of Education, Administration for Children’s Services, Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services, Department for the Aging, Department of Youth and Community Development, and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It also assessed distributions by borough and Asian ethnicity.
“It’s no secret that New York City’s uniquely vibrant Asian American community is still growing, but the administration must recognize that and provide the support our community needs, especially when it comes to seniors and those living in poverty,” said New York City Council Member Margaret Chin in response to the report. “The struggles for fairness and access to opportunity are still very real for thousands of Asian Americans in our City, and now Mayor de Blasio and his administration must ask themselves the tough question of whether they are really doing everything they can to help Asian Americans succeed. I look forward to working with my City Council colleagues and the administration to help improve this situation moving forward,” said Chin.
Similarly, leaders of Asian-serving organizations called for a serious re-examination of city social service funding. “This report demonstrates the lack of funding our community has historically received, and it’s high time we address the ever-growing needs of our community,” said Mohammad Razvi, executive director of Council for Peoples Organization. “As an organization that serves one of the fastest-growing and poorest ethnicities, we have to examine how agency dollars are being used to lift our community out of poverty,” emphasized Razvi.
In response to the Department for the Aging contracts data, Linda Lee, executive director of the Korean Community Services of Metro. NY said, “Asian seniors are the fastest-growing elderly population in our City. While it’s heartening to see that DFTA has the highest percentage of contract awards to the Asian community, there hasn’t been a significant enough increase in resources to support that growth. The current DFTA Commissioner understands this and is trying to be responsive to the growth in our population and need. We hope Mayor de Blasio and his administration will also champion our seniors.”
Hong Shing Lee, executive director of CMP, one of the leading Asian American workforce development organizations in the City, pointed out how city agencies have not invested enough in Asian workers. “New York City is a historic gateway for newcomers to our country, and while we’re proud of this heritage, we also need more resources to help immigrants learn English, find jobs, and contribute to this City’s economy. We need to develop new standards for evaluating an organization’s delivery of, design for, and dedication to culturally competent services.”
Grace Shim, executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, remarked that the report brought attention to the reality that funding has not kept pace with the Asian American community’s needs. “Community groups like ours offer services for immigrant New Yorkers to access life-saving programs, such as food, housing, and healthcare. With the economic downturn, we’ve served more and more clients who normally wouldn’t have applied for city help. At the same time, we can’t meet the current level of need with the limited resources we’re given. We need to support newcomers and long-time residents who need temporary assistance, as well as those who are living in generational poverty,” urged Shim.
Public Advocate Letitia James agreed with the sentiment of Asian American leaders. She said, “The Asian community is a vital part of our City’s economic and cultural engine, and we must ensure that they, and all diverse communities, have access to the supportive services they need to prosper. I want to thank the Asian American Federation for their leadership, and look forward to working together to make our City work better for all New Yorkers.”
Dr. Shao-Chee Sim was the first to define the Federation’s leadership role on this issue. Now serving as chief strategy officer at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, he commented, “When I wrote the first report 13 years ago while I was at the Asian American Federation, our aim was to get the City not only to look at the overall funding to Asian-serving programs but also to consider replacing geographic-focused criteria with a ‘communities of shared interest’ model for evaluating contracts. Unfortunately, the increase in funding to Asian-serving groups has only increased minimally despite the surge in population. Surely, as one of the most innovative cities in the world, we can do better.”
“The previous administration’s preference for larger and fewer contracts has forced many Asian-focused organizations to become subcontractors to larger, mainstream organizations. What this report serves to highlight is that when budgets are cut, the subcontractors bear the burden of working with fewer or no resources, even while trying to serve clients who continue to come to them for services,” pointed out Tenzing Chadotsang, deputy director of Chhaya CDC.
Howard Shih, co-author of the report and research & policy director at the Asian American Federation, voiced a policy recommendation that Asian American organizations have been asking for for years: “One way to address the funding gap is to change the contracting process to recognize those agencies that have language capacity and cultural expertise to serve the community, which mainstream organizations do not. We hope this report serves to stimulate discussion and effect the kind of change we’ve all been advocating for years.”
The Asian American Federation works to raise the influence and well-being of the pan-Asian American community through research, policy advocacy, public awareness, and organizational development. Established in 1989, AAF supports over 40 Asian American community service agencies, which work to meet the critical needs of the fastest-growing population in New York City. For more information, please visit www.aafederation.org.
CONTACT: Howard Shih