California’s new $100 billion spending bill, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Monday, includes a $156 million investment in noncarceral alternatives to combatting violence against Asian Americans, who make up 16 percent of the state’s population.
While California isn’t the first or only state to pass a funding plan for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, the package is by far the largest, more than 15 times what New York allocated in its state budget.
Developed by the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, the Asian Pacific Islander Equity Budget allocates the money over a three-year period to a host of victim support, mental health and educational resources to tackle the root causes of anti-Asian racism. The victim-centered solutions covered by the proposal stand in contrast to the recent federal hate crimes legislation, which bolstered law enforcement response to anti-Asian violence.
“There’s more to dealing with hate than just going after the perpetrators of hate,” state Sen. Richard Pan, chairperson of API Legislative Caucus, told NBC Asian America. “We want to discourage hate incidents, but we also want to support the people who had to survive it.”
Pan noted that the plan, endorsed by more than 150 Asian American groups, is one of the largest commitments in the state’s history to address the needs of Asian Americans.
“We’re talking about safety that’s beyond law and order. It’s about having safer schools, jobs and businesses in our ethnic enclaves.”
Two-thirds of the package, around $110 million, will be distributed to community-based organizations so they can provide resources to victims of hate incidents. Other grants will cover the cost of legal, health care and mental health services, as well as outreach and public safety programs, such as civilian foot patrols to protect seniors.
Another $10 million will go to the national reporting center Stop AAPI Hate, which has recorded more than 6,600 self-reports of coronavirus discrimination since last March, 40 percent of which occurred in California. In addition to gathering data, the group has also conducted studies detailing the impact of anti-Asian hate on vulnerable subgroups like women and seniors.
“This is a historic investment in the API community at an extraordinarily difficult time,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting, a Democrat from San Francisco who worked on the budget. “These organizations have been supporting our communities up and down the state. We wanted to have an appropriate response from the state that helps build this infrastructure.”
An earlier version of the proposal included an additional $30 million to establish a hate crimes hotline; a team of interpreters to help those who speak limited English navigate public resources; and an independent office to address structural racism in state agencies. These initiatives were not included in the final budget vote but could be approved with subsequent bills.
Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, applauded the budget for targeting “overall under-investments” that have long plagued the Asian diaspora.
“It represents the multitude of needs our communities have,” Kulkarni said. “We’re talking about safety that’s beyond law and order. It’s about having safer schools, jobs and businesses in our ethnic enclaves.”
“We’ve learned as a civil rights community that when we’re addressing violence in our schools, we do not want to call for more police. It just furthers the school-to-prison pipeline that results in Black, Hispanic and API students being funneled into our criminal justice system.”
Alarmed by the surge in racist attacks targeting Asian Americans, many Asian parents have been afraid to send their children back to school. The API Equity Budget allocates $20 million to address safety in schools — half of which will fund a restorative justice program where Asian students and staff can discuss personal experiences with hate and microaggressions. Another $5 million will go toward a peer social network to address bullying and mental health concerns for children and youth.
Policy experts say pursuing noncarceral strategies in schools is crucial, given a long history of state violence against students of color.
“We’ve learned as a civil rights community that when we’re addressing violence in our schools, we do not want to call for more police,” Angela Chan, policy director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Asian Law Caucus, one of the organizations that consulted Californian lawmakers on the funding proposal. “It just furthers the school-to-prison pipeline that results in Black, Hispanic and API students being funneled into our criminal justice system early on.”
In addition to education initiatives, the budget will fund a number of efforts to improve data collection, as Asian Americans are often underrepresented or left out of national polling and medical research. The University of California, Riverside, will receive $10 million in seed money to create a quarterly survey — conducted online and in-language — to study the community’s needs and barriers.
The plan also invests $10 million in ethnic media outreach to ensure that people who speak limited English, often low-income elders, receive timely information about important services, Pan said. For example, the new budget expands health care for older immigrants and boosts funding for small business grants.
“I view our API Equity Budget not as a pot of money that says, ‘This will take care of all the needs of the API community,’” Pan said. “It’s a bridge between our community and the larger programs we’re funding with even more money to be sure our community is aware of them and can access them.”
CORRECTION (July 13, 2021, 2:45 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated where the $156 million for the Asian Pacific Islander Equity Budget is coming from. The money will be provided as part of a $100 billion spending bill Gov. Newsom signed on Monday, not the state’s operating budget of $262.6 billion.