Helping Community Agencies During the Economic Downturn

California has been one of the states hardest hit by unemployment and home foreclosures. But what about in the Asian American communities?

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the only major racial group for whom the number of initial unemployment insurance claims increased every single quarter from January 2008 through March 2009. In fact we filed more than 400,000 unemployment insurance claims in the first quarter of the year. The hardest hit were Vietnamese and Filipinos.

We also looked at Asian home foreclosures. You know more Asians bought homes recently in a period of inflated prices. We’ve traditionally had one of the highest rates of home ownership in California. Well, that’s starting to crack.

New census data shows Asians suffered the sharpest DROP in homeownership last year than all other groups of whites, blacks or Hispanics. And this is a good illustration of how the Asian Pacific Fund makes an impact. We took the first step… and asked agencies to tell us about the budget cuts they were facing, so our grants and services could help cushion the fall. We found services were suffering for many people—including the home-bound elderly, victims of domestic violence and people without health insurance.

Here’s one example of help the Fund provided. Lao Family counsels low and moderate income families before they purchase a home, and they help others avoid default and foreclosures. Clients pool money from many family members to make the down payment. It’s a very Asian thing, right?

You know that buying a house is complicated even for those of us who are college-educated and fluent in English. Well, just think about how tough it is for the Lao clients who speak very little English. Things have gotten even tougher.

Two years ago, only 10% of the housing counseling at Lao Family was to help people AFTER the purchase. By this year, the demand had shifted entirely. Nearly 90 percent of the callers asked for help with mortgage delinquency and foreclosures. With an Asian Pacific Fund grant, the Lao agency can continue to provide crucial financial counseling services for these families.

Here are two other examples of the Asian Pacific Fund’s work in the past year. The city of Richmond is home to an agency that provides bi-lingual mental health counseling for Asians. Richmond Area Multi Services provides counseling for Asians of all ethnic backgrounds and the stress in these times can push people over the breaking point.

This year’s budget cuts in San Francisco meant the Tagalog-speaking counselor serving Balboa high school would be laid off. We brought this to the attention of the leaders of the Fil Am Fund—it’s a project of the Asian Pacific Fund. The outcome? A $35,000 grant was approved that will save the job of that counselor for at least one year. In total, the Fund made 15 grants this year to help local organizations stave off the impact of budget cuts.

We also invest in capacity building and public education. The Fund presents free workshops for community agencies. In 2010 we focused on staff reductions and layoffs. Even though many agencies face these realities, most do not have the benefit of a human resources department.

The Fund offered a free workshop specifically on layoffs-- the human and legal dimensions of the process, and also maintaining staff morale. The questions during the session made it very clear that the agencies do not have the resources to help them through this difficult process. We hope to find additional ways to be helpful throughout the year. And a big thank you to Joyce, who generously volunteered her time and is here this evening. Her workshop was coupled with a presentation by the Asian Law Caucus sharing its fundraising experience.

And finally, in our public education programs, we have several new developments. Many of you are fans of our student essay and art program, Growing Up Asian in America. It was created by the Asian Pacific Fund, and we now run it in partnership with NBC Bay Area.

Growing Up Asian in America is the largest celebration of Asian heritage in the country, with a year-round exhibit hosted by public libraries in the region. This year, we welcomed Target as the presenting sponsor.

And we continued our work on Childhood Obesity. There was a panel on Asian childhood obesity at a Statewide conference, the first ever in the ten-year history of the conference. We hosted an ethnic media briefing that attracted Chinese, Korean and Filipino media. We thank our financial sponsors and supporters who made that possible.

All of these programs--grants to agencies, workshops, public education and, yes, the continuing celebration of our Asian heritage are made possible through the annual campaign of the Asian Pacific Fund.



excerpt from the 2009 annual gala presentation by Thuy Vu, Board Member and Journalist

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