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Home Sections MiscellaNEWS Senate Highlights Accomplishments and Priorities for Asian Americans and Pacific-Islander Community
Senate Highlights Accomplishments and Priorities for Asian Americans and Pacific-Islander Community PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 03 August 2007 09:37

Dateline Washington, DC, Friday, August 3, 2007--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today joined Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) to highlight how Senate Democratic achievements, and legislative priorities will help to improve the lives of the Asian-American and Pacific-Islander community in the United States.

"Senate Democrats have heeded the American people’s call for change and we have delivered on key priorities for hard working Asian American and Pacific Islander families and all Americans," Reid said. "By putting the public interest ahead of the special interests we are changing the way business is done in Washington, DC. Whether it’s giving working families a long overdue pay raise, implementing key 9/11 Commission recommendations, providing healthcare coverage to millions of children, and giving more students the opportunity to achieve a college education, Democrats have worked hard and will continue to fight for a new direction for our nation."

"Education has been the pathway to achieving the American Dream for Americans of Asian Pacific ancestry, as well as for all Americans," Senator Inouye said. "The Senate’s new majority has widened that pathway with the passage of the Higher Education Bill, which provides the largest increase in college aid since the G.I. Bill." Inouye said. "We have also shown our commitment to the Asian Pacific community and all Americans by raising the minimum wage, by providing health coverage for millions more of our children, and by increasing the security of our nation."

"I am pleased with the progress we have made this year, opening access to education for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, increasing awareness of the needs of historically underrepresented groups such as Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, and ensuring students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to achieve a solid education," said Akaka. "I am also very pleased that legislation authored by my colleague Senator Inouye to provide equitable benefits to brave Filipino veterans who fought alongside our troops in World War Two was favorably reported by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. As Chairman, I am well aware that our country owes them a debt of gratitude. This bill will remedy a long-standing injustice and fulfill our Nation’s promise to those who served."

Some of the highlights of legislation Senate Democrats have passed and how it benefits Asian-American and Pacific-Islander families include:

Minimum Wage Increase: More than 260,000 AAPIs will get a pay raise.

Children’s Health bill: 9 million uninsured children will be covered. 12.2% of all uninsured children are Asian American.

Higher Education bill: Will provide $17 billion in additional college aid to students – the largest increase since the G.I. bill – including many AAPI students, with over 20 percent of all AAPI students applying for federal student aid and loans.

Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 -- the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform in a generation: Giving the American people a government as good and as honest as the people it represents.

Implementing key 9/11 Commission recommendations: This bill would make America more secure by implementing remaining critical homelands security recommendations made by the September 11th Commission.

* Attached is a detailed review of these and other initiatives Senate Democrats have advanced to improve the quality of life of Latinos and all hard working American families.

###

Senate Democrats Working for the Asian-American and Pacific-Islander Community:

A Mid-Year Review of Senate Efforts to Address the Needs of AAPI Communities

Last November, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters sent a strong message to Congress that they expected a change in the way business was done in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats heard that call to action and have worked diligently to meet that challenge. From prioritizing and fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, to raising the minimum wage, increasing access to a Higher Education, and supporting our troops, Senate Democrats stand steadfast with the AAPI community in the mission to expand opportunities and improve the well being of Asian American and Pacific Islander families.

Ensuring a Pay Raise for Workers

Democrats respect the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander workers and won the fight to raise the minimum wage. After a 10 year battle against Republican oppositionists, Democrats successfully increased worker pay checks. More than 260,000 hardworking AAPIs will benefit from the increase in pay. The new law raises the minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour in three steps over two years. The impact of this increase for low income Asian American families is significant because 8.2% of Asian Americans live in poverty. When the $7.25/hour minimum wage kicks in, workers will see a growth of nearly $4,200 in their income. That will translate into almost two years of child care; more than full tuition for a community college degree; a year and a half of heat and electricity; more than a year of groceries; and more than 8 months of rent.

Expanding Educational Opportunities

Democrats passed landmark legislation to make college more affordable for Asian American and Pacific Islanders. While higher education is becoming increasingly important to achieving the American dream, access to a college is becoming less affordable and accessible. Over 20 percent of all AAPIs apply for federal student loans. According to a Government Accountability Organization report approximately 81 percent of Vietnamese undergraduates reported that their parents paid none of their tuition. Over a quarter of Vietnamese, Filipino and Indian students depend on federal student loans. That is why Democrats worked to pass legislation to level the playing field and ensure access to a higher education is available to all. The Higher Education bills passed in the Senate there would:

Increase student aid for low and middle-income students $17 billion in new student aid and expanding Pell grant eligibility to 250,000 low income students.

Make student loan debt more manageable

Expands student loan debt forgiveness for those who commit to public service

Hold colleges and states accountable for rising educational costs

Simplify the financial aid process, and reform the student loan system to work for students, not banks.

Under Democratic Leadership, the Senate passed legislation to expand the Head Start program. The program provides children with cognitive, social-emotional, and academic skills, helping to prepare them for success in school. Studies show that children who have participated in Head Start programs are better prepared for school than their peers who have not had the benefit of Head Start. On June 19, the Senate passed the "Head Start for School Readiness Act," which would increase funding and expand access for the Head Start program to include additional low-income children up to 130 percent of the federal poverty line. The bill would also double the size of Early Head Start, delivering services to over 56,000 additional children.

Expanding and Improving Healthcare

Democrats are working to ensure health care coverage for children. Approximately nine million American children do not have health insurance and in 2005, 12.2% of Asian American children were uninsured compared to 7.2% of non-hispanic white children. . The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) extends health insurance to low-income children who do not qualify for Medicaid but whose families cannot afford private insurance. To address this year’s budget shortfalls, which would have left 14 states without money to provide full CHIP coverage, Congress included $650 million in funding to CHIP the 2007 Emergency Supplemental. The Senate approved CHIP Reauthorization legislation, which includes a $35 billion increase to the program. The bipartisan bill in the Senate will maintain coverage for all 6.6 million low-income children currently in CHIP and provide health insurance to 3.2 million more.

The 110th Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to ensure the availability of breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women. According to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, AAPI women have the lowest rate of cancer screening compared to other ethnic groups. For instance, the rate of cervical cancer among Vietnamese Americans is five times higher than that for white women, representing the highest rate for any racial or ethnic group. In April the President signed the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, which reauthorized and increased funding for the program to subsidize mammography exams, pap tests, and other screening exams. The law would also allow some states to spend grant money on outreach programs to underserved women who may not otherwise know about the program.

Supporting, Honoring, and Caring for Our Troops and Veterans

Democrats provided funds to support our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are over 62,000 AAPIs on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, many of them serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In the 2007 Emergency Supplemental, Democrats support our troops and fully funded the President’s requests for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes funding to support the current troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and funds for the escalation force of 21,000 combat troops and 4,729 support personnel in Iraq and 7,200 troops in Afghanistan.

Democrats are also committed to investing in the resources needed to care for our veterans. There are nearly 295,000 Asian American military veterans, one in three of whom are 65 and older; over 28,000 are Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, one in five of whom are 65 and older. One of the best ways to honor America’s more than 24 million veterans for their service and sacrifice in past and current conflicts is to provide them with high-quality, comprehensive care once they return home. In both the 2007 Emergency Supplemental and the 2008 Budget Resolution, Congress provides for additional funding for veterans’ health programs.

Democrats are moving forward on addressing the needs of Filipino veterans. Eligibility for compensation and pension benefits are the greatest concern for the aging Filipino veteran population, many of whom live in the Philippines. A modified version of Senator Inouye’s Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007, was included in the omnibus veterans benefits bill that was ordered reported in June. This bill, S. 1315 as amended, would increase the rates of VA disability compensation for Filipino veterans residing outside of the United States. This legislation would create parity among these veterans, mandating that they all receive the full-rate of disability compensation, regardless of whether they live in the United States or abroad.

Advancing Energy Independence and Environmental Protection

Democrats worked to pass Energy legislation that encourages fuel diversity and renewable energy to reduce costs, pollution and our dependence on oil. The Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007 is a landmark energy legislation that will increase our energy independence, strengthen the economy, enhance our national security, reduce global warming emissions, and protect consumers.

Supporting Small Businesses -- the Engine of our Economy

Democrats restored funding and resources to critical Asian American and Pacific Islander small business programs. There are more than 1.1 million Asian American owned firms, contributing $327 billion to the economy, and nearly 29,000 are owned by Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Over 2.2 million workers are employed by AAPI small firms.

The vast majority of these firms are considered small businesses. In the 2008 Budget Resolution, Congress rejected the President’s proposal to cut assistance to America’s small businesses and provided for the restoration of funding for the Manufacturing Extension Program, which helps small businesses adopt advanced manufacturing technologies. The measure also provided robust resources for the SBA’s budget, which has already experienced deep cuts to key programs including federal contracting oversight, veterans’ small business programs and microlending.

Restoring Transparency and Accountability in Washington

Senate Democrats delivered on yet another promise made to the American people by achieving final passage of S. 1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 -- the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform in a generation. In so doing, we are giving the American people a government as good and as honest as the people it represents.

The legislation will prohibit gifts and travel from lobbyists and companies that hire lobbyists, put an end to pay-to-play schemes like the Republican K Street Project, dramatically increase public disclosure of lobbyist activity, slow the revolving door between Congress and the lobbying world, require transparency in the earmark process, and increase penalties for corrupt politicians and lobbyists.

The American people have made it abundantly clear that unethical and illegal behavior will no longer be tolerated in the halls of Congress, and we look forward to the President enacting this sorely needed reform. # # #



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