AAPI Weekly Highlights: Moving Forward Despite Sequester

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AAPI Highlights, March 4, 2013


Welcome to this edition of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) Highlights. Read about the President’s call for a responsible approach to deficit reduction, the President’s remarks made in dedicating a statue honoring Rosa Parks at the US Capitol, WHIAAPI’s Texas Regional Conference, and agency announcements.

President Obama Talks About Moving Forward Despite Sequester

President Obama held a press conference on Friday morning after meeting with Congressional leaders to talk about his plans to move the country forward in light of the severe budget cuts that start to take effect. These cuts, which are known as the sequester, will hurt our economy and cost us jobs, the President said. And as Americans all across the country work hard to keep our economic recovery going, arbitrary cuts to services and investments that businesses and workers depend on makes that far more difficult.


But none of this is necessary, President Obama said. These cuts are "happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made."  Read more here.

Statement from the President on the House Passage of the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act 

On February 28, 2013, the President made the following statement on the House Passage of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act: “I was pleased to see the House of Representatives come together and vote to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act.  Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse. Today’s vote will go even further by continuing to reduce domestic violence, improving how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the LGBT community.  The bill also reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, providing critical support for both international and domestic victims of trafficking and helping ensure traffickers are brought to justice.  I want to thank leaders from both parties – especially Leader Pelosi, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Senator Leahy – for everything they’ve done to make this happen.  Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk.” Read the President’s full statement here and the Vice President’s statement here.


Remarks by the President at Dedication of Statue Honoring Rosa Parks


On February 27, 2013, the President made the following remarks in the U.S. Capitol. “This morning, we celebrate a seamstress, slight in stature but mighty in courage. She defied the odds, and she defied injustice. She lived a life of activism, but also a life of dignity and grace. And in a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America -- and change the world. Rosa Parks held no elected office. She possessed no fortune; lived her life far from the formal seats of power. And yet today, she takes her rightful place among those who’ve shaped this nation’s course. I thank all those persons, in particular the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, both past and present, for making this moment possible.” Read the full remarks here.

WHIAAPI Announcements


 Engaging the Texas AAPI Community


A record attendance of over 500 AAPI community members converged on the University of Houston on Saturday, February 23, 2013. But this should not come as a surprise. Texas has experienced phenomenal growth over the last decade, with the AAPI population growing to more than 575,000 or by 72.4%, which included growth not only among Asian Indians, Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipinos, and Koreans, but also among more recently-arrived immigrant communities like the Bhutanese. Recent Census data also reflects that the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community experienced a significant growth rate of 50 percent, with the Guamanian or Chamorro community comprising the largest Texas community, followed by Native Hawaiians. Read the full blog post here.


Agency Spotlight


Did you know that approximately 40% of nail salon workers nationwide are AAPI?  The Obama Administration has supported AAPI women workers by creating an interagency working group to improve regulations, programs, and outreach strategies that will ensure salon worker health and safety.  This past year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), a member of the interagency working group, developed and posted a webpage on health hazards in nail salons and published new guidance entitled, “Staying Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers.”  Both the website and new publication were completed with input from the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance (Alliance).  The guide has been translated into Vietnamese and Korean.  OSHA has also been working with the Alliance on a final distribution strategy.  Read more about the great work that OSHA and other agencies are doing to support AAPI women and communities here.


Agency Announcements


 Sequestration Would Hurt Students, Teachers and Schools


On February 25, 2013, Secretary Arne Duncan testified before the Senate about the negative effects of sequestration. “When the cuts hit, they will hurt the most vulnerable students worst,” Duncan said during his testimony. Duncan went on to explain that sequestration would cut Title I by $725 million, affecting 1.2 million disadvantaged students, and risk the jobs of about 10,000 teachers and aides. Other cuts include $600 million in special education, requiring states and districts to cover the cost of approximately 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff. In Head Start, some 70,000 students could be kicked out. “Doing that to our most vulnerable students is economically foolish and morally indefensible,” said Duncan. Read more here. 

Statement by Attorney General Eric Holder on the House Passage of the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

On February 28, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder issued the following statement on the House passage of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act: “I am pleased that Congress has voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a landmark law that has transformed the way we respond to domestic and sexual violence. This reauthorization includes crucial new provisions to improve our ability to bring hope and healing to the victims of these crimes, expand access to justice, and strengthen the prosecutorial and enforcement tools available to hold perpetrators accountable.” Read the statement here.

HUD Launches First Fair Housing App

On February 28, 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled the first housing discrimination mobile application (app) for iPhone and iPad. Developed by HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) and Hewlett Packard (HP), the app uses the latest technology to provide the public with a quick and easy way to learn about their housing rights and to file housing discrimination complaints, and inform the housing industry about its responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act. The app will also be an important tool to assist fair housing groups and other civil rights advocacy organizations in their efforts to help individuals pursue their housing rights and industry to educate their members on their responsibilities. Read more here. 


U.S. Education Department and the Corporation for National and Community Service Announce New School Turnaround AmeriCorps Program


On February 25, 2013, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Wendy Spencer, Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), announced a new competitive grant program that will provide $15 million in public funds over three years to reinforce and accelerate intervention efforts in the nation’s lowest-performing schools. The new School Turnaround AmeriCorps program will support the placement of a dedicated cadre of AmeriCorps members in persistently underachieving schools across the country. This innovative approach seeks to increase student academic achievement, attendance and high school graduation rates, and college and career readiness in those schools. Read more here.


U.S. Labor Department Issues Final Rules for Multiple Employer Health Care Arrangements


On February 28, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration announced final rules under the Affordable Care Act to protect workers and employers whose health benefits are provided through Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements (MEWA). The final rules increase the department's enforcement authority to protect participants in MEWAs and call for such plans to adhere to enhanced filing requirements. "A MEWA can be a means to offer benefits to workers where none other exists. But too often the individuals operating such arrangements take advantage of employers who want to make health insurance available to workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi. "Today's final rules give the department more tools to protect the employees of small companies that band together to purchase benefits." Read more here.

Department of Transportation Seeks Student Proposals for Innovations in Aviation and Aerospace

As part of a comprehensive effort by the Obama administration to involve more of the country’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math studies, known as STEM, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requested proposals from college and high school students for unique scientific and engineering innovations in aviation and aerospace. The “Recognizing Aviation and Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering” Award, called RAISE, was created as the result of a recommendation made in 2010 by DOT’s Future of Aviation Advisory Committee. Its intent is to generate incentives for high school, college and university students to develop creative solutions to aviation and aerospace issues and to share their results with the broader community. Read more here. 

Public Voting Opens to Determine HHSinnovates People’s Choice Award Winner

On February 28, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the start of public voting for the People’s Choice Award in the HHSinnovates Program. The program recognizes inventive and original projects led by HHS employees, designed to help solve some of the nation’s most challenging health care problems. HHS employees submit their innovations twice a year, with the top entries posted for online voting and comments by the internal HHS community. Based on this input, six finalists are chosen, from which the People’s Choice is awarded. Additionally, Secretary Sebelius will choose three finalists to honor as well. Winners are invited to Washington, DC to share their innovations with Department leadership and are recognized by the Secretary in an awards ceremony. Read more here.

Plenary Session of Island Leaders and Federal Officials Held at Department of the Interior 

Governors and Congressional representatives from each of the U.S. Insular Areas gathered in Washington at the Department of Interior to attend their annual meeting with senior-level federal officials to discuss issues of importance to American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S Virgin Islands. Read more here and see the video of the session here.