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‘Historic’ $200 Million To Combat Anti-Asian Hate Moves Forward As Part Of State Budget

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California legislators have to pass a state budget by June 15.
(David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
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'API Budget' To Combat Anti-Asian Hate Passes As Part Of State Budget

It’s a small line item in the hulking state budget passed today, but a $200 million package to fund Asian American and Pacific Islander initiatives is unprecedented in its size and scope.

The proposal, pushed by the API Legislative Caucus after a rise in anti-Asian hate incidents and crimes over the last year, would attempt to help affected communities through strategies ranging from promoting language access to offering alternatives to incarceration.

“This is a really historic proposal because it's really a flashpoint for our community to stand up and to ask to be seen, but also ask to be heard,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), who took a lead in crafting the proposal as chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.

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More than half of the money would go toward providing victims of hate with free legal services, health care and counseling. The plan also calls for creating a new hotline in multiple Asian languages for people to report hate incidents and seek help.

“Community groups need to assist all these folks who are petrified to leave their home, afraid of resuming their daily life,” Ting said.

There are also provisions to tackle hate incidents in schools. A $10 million pilot program would develop restorative justice strategies to address anti-Asian bullying, said Manjusha Kulkarni of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, one of the community leaders who offered recommendations to the legislative caucus.

Kulkarni said rather than focus on punishing the perpetrator, there could be mediation sessions when possible, where the victim would explain directly to the student or staffer behind a racist comment or incident the harm and trauma they experienced.

“This raises the opportunity for healing and understanding, rather than what is more about restitution and/or retribution,” Kulkarni said.

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The budget would also direct $20 million in grants to community centers and small businesses in ethnic hubs such as the state’s Chinatowns in various cities, which have been hard-hit by a drop in customers and also fears of attacks on older shoppers. Oakland’s Chinatown, for example, has seen a string of assaults on Asians.

Some other provisions of the API Equity Budget:

  • $10 million for Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based online reporting tool co-founded by Kulkarni’s group along with Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University. The coalition has recorded more than 6,600 hate incidents around the country since it was created last year, as reported cases rose precipitously during the pandemic.
  • $10 million to create a corps of Asian language-speaking interpreters who would work in state departments to assist immigrants.
  • $10 million to create an Office of Racial Equity to help all communities of color. The office, modeled after those in cities like San Francisco, would work with state agencies to develop racial equity plans and identify areas for reform.

The $260 billion-plus state budget can still be amended before the Legislature adjourns in September, but the API caucus is calling on Governor Newsom to keep the full proposal in the final version.

Updated June 14, 2021 at 8:52 PM PDT