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Asian groups blast House budget cuts in Flushing

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Representatives of a number of prominent Asian-American advocacy groups converged on Flushing last Thursday to stand in opposition to massive cuts to social assistance and other services included in a budget proposal recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill, which has been dubbed HR-1 and has been rejected by the U.S. Senate, proposes billions of dollars in total cuts to services, such as food programs, childcare and senior centers, health services and housing assistance programs.

A news conference was held in conjunction with similar events in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles — other places where many members of large Asian-American immigrant communities rely on the programs that would lose funding under HR-1.

Richard Lee, public policy and legislative advocate for Asian Americans for Equality, said he is pushing for an increase in taxes on high-income Americans over the HR-1 measure, which calls for deep reductions in programs that lower-income people rely on.

“There’s going to be a ripple effect — if HR-1 is passed — through low- and middle-class families,” he said. “We are urging our elected officials to find an equitable way to balance our budgets and to really show a commitment to the concept of shared sacrifice.”

Betty Cheng, chief operating officer of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, at 136-26 37th Ave. — where the news conference was held — said the impact of the proposed cuts on ´╗┐community health centers’ funding of more than $1 billion would be devastating to low-income Asian-American populations. In New York City, the fallout from the funding reductions would be $13 million in lost funding, leading to the closure of six centers and the denial of care to 150,000 patients, many of whom are Asian American.´╗┐

“This is very important for us to work with our city, state and national leaders to make sure they don’t implement ´╗┐these cuts,” she said.

Vanessa Leung, deputy director of the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families, said the cuts would gut programs like Pell grants, Head Start — which would lose 118,000 slots in the state — and public schools.

“New York City is going to receive $1 billion less in state education funding and that’s leading us to start thinking about laying off teachers. That’s going to destabilize our classrooms and have major impacts on the quality of their education,” she said.

Programs threatened under the budget proposal and the approximate amount HR-1 would slash their funding nationwide by are as follows:

• community block grant programs: $3.2 billion

• senior programs: $1.1 billion

• Head Start: $1 billion

• education for disadvantaged students/school improvement: $2.4 billion

• Youth Build job readiness program: $102 million

• community health centers: $1 billion

• housing counseling: $87 million

• housing programs: $1.3 billion

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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