Asian American Advisory Group Budget Meeting with County Executive Ike Leggett December 1, 2009

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Asian American Advisory Group

Budget Meeting with County Executive Ike Leggett

December 1, 2009
The Asian American Advisory Group appreciates the County Executive for giving us the opportunity to share our communities’ needs and concerns, especially in light of the budget challenges facing the County for the upcoming fiscal years. We decided to frame our budget discussion around three top issues:

  1. Support for Community Nonprofits and Community Members

  2. Support for Small Businesses and Access to County Jobs

  3. Representation on County’s Boards, Committees, and Commissions (B/C/Cs)

Recognizing that not all issues are budget related, or can be addressed right away or by the County government alone, we commit to working with the County Executive and the Office of Community Partnerships to improve our communities’ access to existing services and resources and to actively seek solutions to the problems we address.

1. Support Needed by Community-based Nonprofits

(Presented by Myron Dean Quon, Esq.)

The repeated story under current economic conditions has been increased need, but decreased funding for our community members. Unlike many of Montgomery County’s fellow residents, some of our Asian American community members have additional needs. These differences relate to language skills, immigration status, cultural differences, pathway to the United States (refugees, asylees, etc.), and education level (some of our community members are illiterate in their native languages)—and require greater attention in terms of County support.
In terms of the actual impact of the economic downturn on our community members, the increased calls range from 20% to 50% for service. In terms of the type of impact, the targeting of Asian seniors for crime has increased. Further, there have been increased legal needs related to unemployment and domestic violence/family law/child support, in addition to small business issues. A recent needs assessment of South Asians in the region suggests that access to healthcare is a priority issue.1
Of final note, nonprofit organizations that focus exclusively on Asian Americans, like the community members they serve, also face increased vulnerabilities in these economic conditions. As smaller, younger, and less-established nonprofit organizations, these nonprofits face greater instability in these uncertain economic times. 

  1. The Asian American community has tremendous unmet needs, and lacks sufficient nonprofit infrastructure to support these needs.

    1. Unmet Needs.

  • According to the latest American Community Survey data, there are about 130,000 Asian Americans in the County – representing close to 1 out of 7 of the total county population.

  • Even though Asian Americans are among the most educated in our county and many are living their American dreams, the disparity within our community is also the greatest. Nearly 6,000 Asian Americans live in poverty, with many more who live just above the federal poverty threshold but are struggling on very limited incomes.

  • Poverty is exacerbated by language and cultural isolation – 40% of the county’s Asian population is linguistically isolated.

  • Language and cultural barriers are complicated further because we are not a monolithic community, but rather are comprised of many different ethnic communities speaking a multitude of different languages and dialects.

  • Our language diversity alone makes it extremely challenging and difficult to create service delivery systems capable of effectively reaching specific populations and meeting their needs. The sheer diversity of languages and ethnicities makes service delivery to the Asian community extremely resource intensive.

    1. Lack of a sufficient nonprofit infrastructure.

  • The current state of funding (both public and private) to Asian-serving nonprofits is not proportional to our population numbers and needs.

  • While we have a few nonprofit organizations serving specific ethnic communities, the majority of them are functioning with very small budgets and with mostly volunteers.

  • Many of these nonprofit organizations are led by first-generation Asian American leaders, who themselves may experience some level of language and cultural barriers and are confronted with even greater challenges in understanding how to access resources in order to sustain their organizations.

  • Given the language and ethnic diversity within the Asian American community, it is important to support ethnic-based organizations that are led and staffed by individuals who have the linguistic and cultural understanding and ability to reach our most vulnerable community members.

  1. Specific Requests to County Executive

    1. At the minimum, preserve current levels of funding for Asian American nonprofit organizations. We are grateful that the County Executive included funding in the FY10 budget for seven APA nonprofits that are providing critical services to low-income Asian Americans and their families, including after-school programs for at-risk youth; free legal services for low-income Asian immigrants; programs to assist senior citizens; immigration services; ESL classes; and health-care access. In spite of the difficult budget, we respectfully request that the County Executive at minimum maintain this level of funding for the community so that critical programs and services that are already stretched do not have to be scaled back further. The economic downturn will continue to result in more people in need coming to our nonprofits for these emergency services, and our nonprofits must be equipped with the staff and resources to meet this increased demand for assistance.

We are grateful for current support of our nonprofits through the County Health and Human Services Department. The invoicing procedures and processing of contracts, however, need greater streamlining. Some nonprofits still have not received a notice to proceed. As noted, some of the smaller nonprofits have less than three full-time staff and cannot easily send a representative to some of the invoicing meetings. Finally, we request that the Department consider additional methods to ensure advance disbursement of funds to smaller nonprofit organizations, otherwise, our Asian-serving nonprofits will need to take out loans to support cash flow until such Department support arrives.

    1. Give fair and careful consideration to additional nonprofit services. We also know that there are many areas of unmet needs that currently funded Asian-serving nonprofits are not meeting, and that huge gaps exist in important service areas. While we recognize that this is going to be a difficult budget year, we ask that fair and careful consideration be given to additional nonprofits who can demonstrate that they are meeting such critical needs in the community.

    1. Create greater transparency in funding process to create a fair and leveled playing field. We also ask that the County Executive’s office consider a funding process that is more transparent than what currently exists so that all nonprofit organizations feel that they can fairly compete for county dollars. Currently, many organizations do not have a clear understanding of the various funding sources within county government, and how to apply for funding.

    1. Work in partnership with us to assess needs, and create long-term strategy for how best to address these needs. Finally, our nonprofit organizations seek to work in earnest partnership with the County Executive and other government leaders to thoughtfully assess community needs and identify gaps in services. This assessment should be based on both quantifiable data and anecdotal evidence, and used to create a long-term strategy for how best to address community needs. Given the nonprofit representation on this advisory group, we will endeavor to begin gathering the anecdotal evidence that can help make the case for need. As well, we hope to work in partnership with the County government on data collection efforts so that our anecdotal evidence can be supported by quantifiable data.

Engaging in this assessment process now will hopefully put us in a position – particularly once the economy turns around – to better identify key areas where strategic investments of both public and private dollars can be made that will benefit the community as a whole.

2. Access to Resources & Partnerships with Nonprofits

(Presented by Diane Vu)

My discussion on access to resources piggybacks on Myron’s presentation on nonprofits since this is an issue that we have been trying to tackle together. The value of the County’s Asian American nonprofits is that we are uniquely positioned to reach vulnerable, isolated communities. We understand the difficult decisions that you will have to make regarding the upcoming budget but by continuing to collaborate with us, we can all ensure that these hard-to-reach populations have access to existing resources.

  1. Asian seniors are a substantial population. In Montgomery County, the senior population is expected to increase by 23.5% from 2000 to 2010 to a total of over 100,000 or about 14% of the total population. Some figures show that Asian seniors make up 26% of the senior population in the County. For this population, access to healthcare and access to language-appropriate services are two major challenges.

  1. Asian seniors have high levels of unmet health needs. According to the Montgomery County Asian American Health Initiative’s recent study, some major health issues Asian Seniors encounter are:

  • Diabetes and hypertension

  • Higher rates of TB than Caucasians, African-Americans, and Hispanics

  • Osteoporosis: average observed calcium intake for Asian women is half of the intake of Western counterparts; estimated that 90% of Asians are lactose intolerant

  • Hepatitis B: the Vietnamese population is 13 times more likely to have hepatitis B than for the white population, according to the Hepatitis B Foundation

  • High prevalence of cervical cancer in women. For example, the rate of cervical cancer in Vietnamese women is five times higher than the rate in Caucasian women.

  • Mental health issues: high prevalence of PTSD and depression among the Southeast Asians due to war trauma. Asian women 65 years or older have the highest rate of suicide among any other group in that age range.

  • Lack of disease prevention due to language and cultural differences.

  1. Language barriers make it difficult to access much needed information. Health care and health information is important to healthy aging of seniors, but almost 7,000 of seniors in the County are LEP, or limited English proficiency.

  • 80% of LEP seniors are linguistically isolated, which means no other household member speaks English. Due to this language barrier, LEP seniors have low levels of participation in government aging services and “safely net” programs, have limited access to health information vital to their well-being, and experience high levels of isolation.

  • There are about 1,725 Vietnamese Seniors in MC. 1 in 5 seniors over the age of 75 live in poverty and 90% of Vietnamese seniors speak Vietnamese ONLY. Many are illiterate in both English and Vietnamese.

  • Asian Americans represent 40 different ethnicities and speak hundreds of different languages and dialects, making it particularly challenging for outreach.

  • More debilitating, however, is the inability to navigate the system due to language barriers. Many English-speaking residents already have difficulties in gaining access to programs or finding out who qualifies for what, but throw in the language barrier and the task becomes almost impossible, unless you know where to find help provided by culture-specific nonprofits.

  • Over this past year, we have seen a dramatic increase for linkage to health services, especially from seniors who struggle to meet their healthcare needs. Our community has expressed need for health care services now more than ever.  MVMA’s calls for our senior program have increased by ____ from 2008 to 2009.

  1. County’s existing senior services cannot effectively reach Asian LEP seniors.

  • As County Executive, you understand the complexity of the needs of API groups and have made it a policy of the Montgomery County Executive Branch that departments, agencies, and programs take reasonable steps to provide equal access to public services for persons with limited English proficiency (LEP). 

  • But even the County still recognizes a huge service gap to a number of populations, including LEP seniors and API groups, and there is still a lack of culturally- and linguistically-appropriate services.

  • The value of our nonprofits is not only are we uniquely positioned to work with the API community (hence our work with the Census Bureau to ensure that everyone is counted), but also that we leverage County support through collaborative efforts (and example of this is our recent API Citizenship Drive), and leveraging support from donors, businesses, and foundations (an example of this is that for every dollar that County grants to MVMA in contracts, we are able to leverage over four times that much in other revenues sources).

  • Therefore, we reiterate that your continued partnership with nonprofits like ours will help ensure we meet these service gaps, especially in this challenging economic climate where there is a tremendous increase in need and resources are dwindling.

3. Business Development

(Presented by Raj Khera and Wonro, Co-Chairs)

  1. We appreciate the County for providing a wide array of business programs and for making outreach efforts this spring during which county leaders visited businesses. Several existing programs, however, can be improved or better promoted to benefit more small businesses.

  1. We recommend the following areas for improvement:

    1. Lift the $80k salary cap as an eligibility requirement for Montgomery Business Works (MBW) workforce development training grant program so that employers can apply for assistance to train and retain more highly educated technical people in order not to lose them to Fairfax County, which aggressively attracts businesses. This tweak does not cost anything; it just expands the pool of eligible people.

    1. Maintain support for incubators and explore creative ways to benefit more small companies that are not incubator tenants but can use incubator’s services including space sharing by hours for conference room access, etc.

    1. Expand publicity for other county programs such as Mentor/Mentee, Workforce Development, etc.  These are great programs but few companies know about them.  This point also addresses accessibility to information in multiple languages.

    1. Many small businesses are interested in bidding on County contracts. Making the County procurement more transparent and easier to understand, including better explanation of the procurement process and issues and challenges better, would make a difference. Consider posting as video on YouTube all the procurement briefings, similar to what DC government now does, to make the process transparent and accessible.

    1. Due to language barriers, some small businesses have extra challenges accessing county information and resources for business development and support. Even native English speakers may not be aware of many resources, let alone people with language difficulty. We need better access to DED programs and resources, which that includes making certain information online in different languages that people can download or distribute. Language barrier limits the opportunities for the County to tap into the assets of the Asian community.

    1. People who participate in DED services are often a self selecting group. There needs to be more engagement on a regular basis between the groups.

4. Diversity in Workforce and Boards, Committees and Commissions

(Presented by Jai Kundu and John Young)

Recruitment for County boards remains a challenge for our community.

      1. It is estimated that Asians only make about 2% of the currently serving board and only 5% of the County workforce, while close to 14% of the County population is Asian. We’re especially underrepresented in senior management positions. It is sad that some Asian American employees do not believe they would have a fair chance for consideration of promotion to higher offices because of their differences.

      1. Asian Americans are above average in educational attainment and training. It would be desirable to involve more capable and talented Asian Americans to participate in our extended government by serving on the various boards and commissions. It would expand our County government to become more inclusive and diverse. On our part, the Asian American Advisory Group will commit to identifying and recruiting more qualified and motivated Asian Americans to participate in these boards and commissions.

We ask the County Executive for his support in the following areas:

      1. Commit to increasing the appointment of APA’s to the various B/C/Cs in the County with a goal of eventually having APA representations at the boards and commissions similar to their population percentage in 3 or 4 years.

      1. Allow our committee to meet with his Special Assistant, Connie Latham, who is in charge of appointments to B/C/Cs, so we can better understand how the system works and help develop a strategy in partnership with the Office of Community Partnerships that will allow us to.

      1. We need more and stronger employees’ associations who work with the County management to help recruit community members from different cultures and become support mechanisms for current employees.

      1. Asian community needs to take some ownership of this issue and do what we can to recruit people for boards, committees and commissions.

1 Washing DeSi: South Asians in the Nation’s Capitol (2009).

Asian American Advisory Group, 12/1/2009 County Executive Presentation Page of

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