Updated July 8:
California’s placeholder spending plan for 2021-22 took effect July 1, with some proposals from the API Equity Budget making their way in. About $156 million will be allotted to support hate incident victims and survivors, data collection and ethnic media outreach.
Another $10 million is going to Stop AAPI Hate, a group that has been chronicling hate incidents toward people of Asian and Pacific Island descent since last year. In addition to that, $10 million will go to the University of California to conduct an ongoing, in-language survey of API concerns in California. Media outlets that serve specific ethnic groups are also receiving $10 million to support their outreach to and coverage of different communities throughout California.
The original budget asked for $210 million, and proposals that didn’t receive funding include the Office of Racial Equity, interpreter corps and ethnic enclaves.
CapRadio reached out to the governor’s office for comment on these parts of the spending plan but did not receive a response by publication.
Assemblymember Dr. Richard Pan, chair of the API Legislative Caucus, noted that the caucus was continuing to work on acquiring funding for the priorities that weren’t included in the spending plan.
For example, he said that he still sees the state government working to find ways to serve communities in their own languages, even if there was no explicit funding for an Interpreter Corps in the spending plan.
“We recognize that this is being addressed in different ways in the state budget and that there are funds to help expand language access to various state programs,” he said.
Even without all the API Equity Budget proposals being signed, Pan said that the final spending plan reflects a government understanding of the long-standing issues that put Asians and Pacific Islanders at a systemic disadvantage, not just about combating hate incidents.
“Data collection is so important when we’re trying to provide support in the schools,” he said. “And it’s important to communicate with our community through the ethnic media to be sure people know not just about what’s in this package but what’s in the broader state budget.”
Additional federal funds from the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act could also go toward the priorities the caucus articulated in the original API Equity Budget proposal. Those could come later in the year.
Editor’s Note: The state budget passed by the Legislature includes $1 million for CapRadio’s new public performance space in downtown Sacramento. It is one of hundreds of such allocations inserted into the $262 billion budget by individual lawmakers for projects in their districts.
California’s got extra money for this year’s budget — a $75 billion surplus on top of federal funding. Asian and Pacific Islander legislators want some of it to toward addressing hate crimes and violence toward Asian Americans.
The API Equity Budget was developed by the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and is supported by over 150 groups serving Asian and Pacific Islander communities across California. The $210 million proposed investment in Asian and Pacific Islander needs comes during a surge in hate incidents and violence against those communities.
The historic request would give money to Stop AAPI Hate, an organization tracking hate incidents, and would create a statewide hotline to connect victims to resources. It would invest in research to better serve the state’s API population. And it would also create a new statewide Office of Racial Equity.
“This budget is a whole-community approach,” said Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council. “It's not just looking at one thing, one particular area or arena, it's looking at the community as a whole.”
In creating the Office of Racial Equity, the budget also highlights a commitment to understanding that structural racism affects all non-white communities, and to figuring out how to address past and ongoing harms.
Support For Hate Incident Victims And Survivors
The bulk of the proposed API budget would go toward tangible support for victims of hate incidents.
It allocates $109.5 million for funding in grants to organizations so they can provide resources for free. It would also set aside $10 million to create a statewide hotline that would connect people to services in their area, with staff that speak a variety of Asian and Pacific Islander languages.
It would also include $10 million for Stop AAPI Hate. As of its most recent count, the organization has recorded over 6,000 incidents of hate speech and crimes directed toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Kulkarni said that the funding would increase capacity to report data to state and local agencies, and go toward analysis in reports the organization provides to California cities and counties.
“We’d also like to provide direct resources to community members, such as mental health resources and legal resources,” she said.
Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting said the proposals were important because they allow organizations to help support people in their own communities.
“We have a huge request to support community organizations up and down the state in regions to ensure that those who are doing the work can get the support they need from the state,” he said.
Angela Chan, Policy Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said allocating state dollars toward these resources was an important piece of the proposal.
“We want to make sure that when it comes to these types of horrible incidents that are happening, it’s not more money being funneled, for example, to law enforcement or to our carceral system,” she said. “Instead, it’s money being funded to directly invest in communities and community infrastructure to provide services to victims, and that includes prevention and intervention services.”
That’s unlike the federal government’s COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, passed in May, which provided implementation grants to law enforcement for analysis of suspected bias-motivated hate crimes. Stop AAPI Hate published a statement after its passage, recommending more work with community safety programs to better address the root causes of systemic racism and oppression.
State Sen. Richard Pan, the Democratic chairperson of the API Legislative Caucus, said that the proposed spending also takes into account overlapping challenges that Asian and Pacific Islander communities face with other marginalized groups, who suffered most during and before COVID-19.
“This is for all communities, not just for the API community,” Pan added.
A New ‘Office Of Racial Equity’
The proposal includes an Office of Racial Equity, which Pan introduced earlier this year as part of Senate Bill 17 to address longstanding structural racism. The bill acknowledges both the United States’ and California’s role in enforcing and drafting racist, exclusionary policies.
Ting said that the office’s creation would help the state government confront the reality that systemic racism has been happening in this country since its inception.
“We understand how we got to this point in time only if we can really look at our history,” he said.
To Kulkarni, the budget isn’t just about the rise of violence against Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the wake of COVID-19 and acknowledging systemic racism. It’s about showing the state is committed to supporting the needs of a population that makes up nearly 16% of California’s population. Still, there are no Pacific Islander legislators in the API Legislative Caucus.
In light of this, Tavae Samuelu, the executive director at Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, said she hopes funding will be distributed in a way that “authentically and meaningfully includes Pacific Islanders.”
Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in California face the highest COVID-19 death rates of all other racial and ethnic groups.
Samuelu wants funds to go to grassroots groups, such as EPIC, that have helped keep Pacific Islanders alive during the pandemic.
“Although the state is reopening tomorrow, we will be responding to COVID-19 for years to come,” she said.
Investing In Community Research
The API plan also includes $10 million for a quarterly, online, in-language survey that would examine the experiences, needs and barriers of Asian American and Pacific Islander adults. There is also spending to look at education gaps, including within the Asian American and Pacific Islander umbrella. For example, in California, only 19% of Laotian adults had a bachelor’s degree in 2019, compared to 74% of Asian Indians.
Dr. Robyn Rodriguez, founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, thinks that the state should consistently make this sort of research a budget priority.
“The failure of our institutions to disaggregate data so that we can really understand the complexities of each of our communities’ struggles makes it almost impossible for us to be able to really be seen,” she said.
Samuelu with EPIC said that another important component of seeing and serving Asian American and Pacific Islanders, many of whom learned English as a second language, is making sure that they receive in-language help.
“It’s about knowing that language is about translating concepts and not words, and there are some concepts that only exist in our language,” Samuelu said. “We want to make sure our elders feel like they can say those things.”
Funding in the budget also creates an “Interpreter Corps” to assist Asian American and Pacific Islanders in their languages.
The Democratic budget proposal gained approval from the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday, but it still needs approval from Gov. Gavin Newsom. The governor reads all proposals as they reach his desk, but doesn’t publicly comment on them.
State lawmakers have until June 30, the end of California’s fiscal year, to negotiate with Newsom and finalize a budget.
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