AAPI Highlights: Congress Must Act Now to Stop the Sequester

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AAPI Highlights, February 25, 2013


Welcome to this edition of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) Highlights. Read about the President’s plan to make America a magnet for jobs; the President’s statement on the looming automatic budget cuts; the launch of WHIAAPI’s 2013 Agency Plans; and agency announcements.

President Obama: Automatic Budget Cuts Will Hurt Economy, Slow Recovery, and Put People Out of Work

On March 1, 2013, Congress might allow a series of severe and automatic budget cuts to take place that will hurt our economic growth, add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls, and threaten military readiness. But, as President Obama said last week, these cuts don’t have to happen -- Congress has the power to stop them. In 2011, President Obama explained, Congress passed a law saying that if they couldn’t agree on a plan to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion – including the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction lawmakers in both parties have already accomplished over the last few years – about $1 trillion in automatic, arbitrary cuts would start to take effect this year. Read more here.

 The President’s Plan to Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure

Investing in infrastructure not only makes our roads, bridges, and ports safer and allows our businesses and workers to be as competitive as they need to be in the global economy, it also creates thousands of good American jobs that cannot be outsourced.  Since the President took office, America has begun the hard work of rebuilding our infrastructure.  But there’s more to do, and that’s why the President’s plan ensures that the money we invest in infrastructure is spent wisely by adopting a “fix-it-first” policy. Repair and maintenance of our existing roads, bridges and public transportation systems should take priority before we consider investing in new facilities.  This will ensure that our cities are safer and more modern.  But taxpayers shouldn’t have to shoulder the entire burden either.  We also know that America works best when we’re tapping the resources and ingenuity of a vibrant private sector. Read the President’s plan here.

WHIAAPI Announcements


Fiscal Year 2013 AAPI Federal Agency Plans Released  


On February 11, 2013, WHIAAPI released the Fiscal Year 2013 federal agency plans and a report entitled Continuing Progress for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community, Federal Agency Accomplishments.  The report showcases the accomplishments made by the federal government to address the needs and improve the quality of life of AAPIs across the country. The Initiative has partnered with more than 20 federal departments and agencies to develop and implement specific plans that will increase the participation of AAPIs in federal programs and services. Read about the plans here.


The Language of Justice


“It seems obvious that the Chinese-speaking minority receive fewer benefits than the English-speaking majority from respondents' school system, which denies them a meaningful opportunity to participate in the educational program -- all earmarks of the discrimination banned by the regulations.”


- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Douglas for the majority, Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974)


Though it’s been nearly 40 years since the Lau decision – a landmark ruling that expanded the rights of non-English speaking students in America, language access still remains a critical civil rights issue today for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other immigrant communities. In 2010, over 25 million individuals – about 9% of the U.S. population over age 5 – reported having limited English proficiency. And for over two-thirds of Asian Americans and nearly one-third of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, English is not spoken at home. In an effort to address the persistent challenges facing limited English proficient (LEP) communities across the nation, the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has done remarkable work to improve language access in federal and federally-assisted programs and activities. Read more here.


Agency Announcements


Health Care Law Protects Consumers Against Worst Insurance Practices


On February 22, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule that implements five key consumer protections from the Affordable Care Act, and makes the health insurance market work better for individuals, families, and small businesses. Under these reforms, all individuals and employers have the right to purchase health insurance coverage regardless of health status.  In addition, insurers are prevented from charging discriminatory rates to individuals and small employers based on factors such as health status or gender, and young adults have additional affordable coverage options under catastrophic plans. Read the about new rules here.


New Affordable Care Act Rule Will Expand Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits to 62 million Americans


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a final rule that will make purchasing health coverage easier for consumers. The policies will give consumers a consistent way to compare and enroll in health coverage in the individual and small group markets, while giving states and insurers more flexibility and freedom to implement the Affordable Care Act.  The rule outlines health insurance issuer standards for a core package of benefits called essential health benefits that health insurance issuers must cover both inside and outside the Health Insurance Marketplace. Through its standards for essential health benefits, the final rule also expands coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, for millions of Americans. For information on the rule, click here. For more information on how today’s rule helps those in need of mental health and substance use disorder services, click here.


HHS Providing States with Additional Flexibility, Resources to Enhance Care


On February 21, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the first recipients of State Innovation Model awards made possible by the Affordable Care Act.  Nearly $300 million in awards will provide flexibility and support to states to help them deliver high-quality health care, lower costs, and improve their health system performance. HHS is also releasing a new report titled Medicaid Moving Forward, which underscores the innovative efforts states and HHS have already undertaken to improve care and lower costs in their Medicaid programs. Read more here.


Equity and Excellence Commission Delivers Report to Secretary Duncan


The need to improve the country’s education system is urgent, according to the Co-Chairs of the Equity and Excellence Commission who formally presented their report to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on February 19. The Commission’s report, “For Each and Every Child,” highlights the need to eliminate “education disparities affecting millions of underserved and disadvantaged students.” While the commission was autonomous and its recommendations do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Education, Secretary Duncan said, “The Commission has sounded a powerful and important alarm about the distance we still have to go to improve education for every American child.” Read more here and to read the full report click here.


CMS Seeks Public Comment on the New, Streamlined Application for Health Insurance and the Small Business Health Options Program


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) seek public comment on the new single, streamlined application for health insurance and the applications in preparation for the launch of a new Health Insurance Marketplace next fall.  Model Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) applications and documentation for individuals and small businesses are now available for public comment. To read the new applications and make your comments to the packages, click on the links below.


Individual Application - CMS-10440

SHOP Employer - CMS-10439

SHOP Employee - CMS-10438


To see the video demonstrations on how to apply, click here. For a full list of items open for public comment, click here.


SBA Launches 2013 Emerging Leaders Initiative


The U.S. Small Business Administration launched its 2013 Emerging Leaders executive-level training initiative, formerly known as e200, in 27 cities and communities across the country.  Since 2008 the initiative has trained more than 1,300 promising small business owners in underserved communities, and continues to expand its impact helping small businesses grow and create jobs.  The city of Los Angeles is joining the initiative for the first time and Oklahoma City, Portland and Seattle are returning. Read more here.


CFPB seeks comments to Promote Student Loan Affordability - Student Loan Briefing Call


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will publish a notice in the Federal Register seeking comment on ways to spur more affordable repayment options for private student loans.

Rohit Chopra, Rick Hackett, and colleagues from the CFPB will host a short briefing call to give an overview of this request. Here are the details:


When:           Wednesday, February 27th

Start Time:   2:05 PM ET

Dial-in:          Provided shortly before the call to those who RSVP

To participate, please RSVP by e-mailing your name and organizational affiliation to students@cfpb.gov, with “2/27 Call” in the subject line, by Tuesday, February 26th by 3:00 PM ET. Read the official announcement here.


Partnering with Counselors to Reduce School Violence


Earlier February, a group of distinguished counselors, selected as finalists for the American School Counselor Association Counselor of the Year and their principals visited the U.S. Department of Education to share their thoughts on transforming the teaching profession and the critical role of the counselor in fostering students’ academic success, socio-emotional well-being and physical safety. While national conversations about gun violence continue, school-based staffs are faced with what to do now to deal with students’ academic, emotional and physical welfare each day. How do we identify students who need support? How do we go beyond just identifying the issues and provide our kids with the needed help? We may be overlooking our counselors and some of the solutions they could provide. Read more here.


Ensuring Safe Schools for LGBT Youth


This past weekend in San Diego, Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, participated in the 4th Annual National Educator Conference focused on creating safe, supportive, and inclusive schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. A goal of the conference, presented by the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL), was to bring together education leaders and LGBT experts to empower and provide educators and school personnel with the knowledge and skills necessary to create safe, welcoming and inclusive school environments for all youth, regardless of their sexual orientation. Read the full post here.


VA Affirms Commitment to Innovation


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched the VA Center for Innovation (VACI), affirming its commitment to innovation and building on the success of the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2). VACI has launched a new web site, released its first annual report, and announced thirteen new awards from its industry innovation competition. These awards respond to needs identified by VA senior leadership and are focused on teleaudiology, prosthetic socket redesign, Blue Button, and automating the sterilization process for reusable medical instruments. Read more here.


OPM Issues Final Rule to Simplify Schedule “A” Hiring Authority for Persons with Disabilities


The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued final regulations pertaining to a special hiring authority for the appointment of persons with certain disabilities.  The final rule for “Excepted Service – Appointment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Severe Physical Disabilities, and Psychiatric Disabilities,” also known as “Schedule A Hiring Authority,” simplifies the hiring process for job applicants with disabilities who have work, educational, or other relevant experience, by relieving them of the burden of procuring “certificates of readiness” as a condition of appointment. The new regulations are consistent with the President’s policy of removing barriers and encouraging the employment of individuals with disabilities in the federal workforce, as expressed in Executive Order 13548, Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities. Read more about it here.


EPA Calls for 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award Nominations


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the nominations for the 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards for companies and institutions that can design chemicals or a new product that help protect public health and the environment. Since the inception of the awards 18 years ago, EPA has received 1,490 nominations and presented awards to 88 technologies. It has resulted in the generation and reduced use of more than 825 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents, saved 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminated 7.9 billion pounds of carbon dioxide releases to the air. Read the full announcement here and more information on past award winners and how to submit entries here.