Does the Stimulus Bill Impact South Asians?

Nina Baliga, National CAPACD

Nina Baliga, National CAPACD

Check out this blog post from February guestblogger, Nina Baliga, Development and Communications Manager at National CAPACD. Nina tells us how she thinks the stimulus bill may impact South Asians:

“Knowing and understanding the diversity of our communities, it’s hard to say what the final impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will have on South Asians across the country.  Personally, I think there are enough stipulations in the bill that provide hope for our communities.

For example, $1 billion will go towards the 2010 Census.   Why does this matter?  Well, the census provides the backbone of information that determines how a lot of public money and even private sector money is spent.  Part of this $1 billion will be used to increase in-language partnerships and outreach efforts to minority communities and other “hard-to-reach” populations.  If more South Asians are counted in the 2010 Census, then there will likely be more resources for our communities.

We do know that there are some provisions that will help low-to-moderate income individuals, and this will definitely help many South Asian families.  For example, there is the Make Work Pay refundable tax credit which could give $400 to single filers and $800 to joint filers in 2009 and 2010.  The bill has also expanded Pell grants to a maximum of $5,350 in 2009 and $5,500 in 2010, hopefully increasing access to a college education to more young adults.  And for those of you who are looking to buy their first home, do it in 2009, because you’ll receive up to an $8000 tax credit from the federal government.

The bill is large and multi-faceted, including tax cuts for individuals and small businesses, funding for education and job training, more money for transportation and health coverage, food assistance, funding for states and local governments, and so much more. The final impact on our communities is yet to be seen.  We can truly hope for the best during this economic crisis, and pray that this massive injection of capital into the country’s economy will prove worthwhile.”

So what do you think? How will this stimulus bill impact the South Asian community? What do you like about the bill and what do you wish it did/did not include?

Nina Baliga joined the National CAPACD staff as the Development and Communications Manager in 2007.  Nina develops our communications strategies, and oversees our outreach to members, funders and other stakeholders. Prior to National CAPACD, Nina worked as a Research Analyst for SEIU Local 11, organizing condominium workers in South Florida. In 2004, she worked as the Canvas Director of the Miami office of America Coming Together, where she mobilized tens of thousands of voters in the largest voter contact program in history.  She began her political career heading up Florida PIRG’s Clean Water Campaigns.  Nina has served on the Board of Directors of SAAVY (South Asian American Voting Youth) as the Fundraising Chair, and mentored SAAVY fellows at the University of Florida as part of a larger South Asian Youth Voter mobilization movement.Nina graduated from New York University with degrees in Sociology and Environmental Studies and recently received her Masters in Business Administration from the University of Florida.

What you need to know before you buy a home …

Have you thought about buying a home? Do you know what home equity is? Are you wondering what your credit score is? I have to confess that I know very little about the process of buying a home and have been intimidated by it because all that I heard from family members and friends was about how stressful it was!

Fortunately, when I was in Queens, NY last week, I was lucky enough to participate in workshop presented by Chhaya CDC called “The Road to Homeownership: Your Rights, Risks, and Rewards.” This very empowering and accessible workshop demystified what it means to buy a home and how you go about doing it. Right then and there, my questions were answered and the process was broken down for me. This workshop is a part of a series that covers various related topics such as whether homeownership is right for you, financial and credit basics, analyzing whether you can afford a mortgage, and how to avoid predatory lenders. These workshops are particularly timely, given the recent foreclosure crisis that has affected many Americans and has brought up questions about how exactly the homebuying process works in the U.S. If you’re in the New York City area and interested in attending one of these workshops, visit Chhaya CDC’s website or email them at info@chhayacdc.org.

Chhaya CDC is an organization based in Queens that addresses and advocates for the housing and community development needs of South Asian Americans in New York City. They provide individualized homeownership and financial counseling, work on tenants’ rights issues, and engage in community outreach on housing and community development issues. They also develop “know your rights” brochures for the community, including factsheet on how to avoid foreclosure rescue scams (available in English and Bangla).

The Passage of Proposition 8: Denying Fundamental Rights to LGBTIQ South Asians

A week after the elections, many in the South Asian community are looking forward to a new Administration and Congress that will hopefully bring forth positive changes concerning civil rights. The elections, however, are bittersweet for many South Asians who are also grappling with disappointment of Proposition 8’s passage in California. This ballot initiative amends the state’s Constitution to ban marriage between same-sex partners. Its passage is especially significant given that it followed a California Supreme Court ruling in The Marriage Cases that recognized same-sex couples’ right to marry.

The passage of Proposition 8 replays a shameful chapter in our country’s history regarding inequality in marriage. During the first half of the twentieth century, anti-miscegenation laws prohibited many immigrants and individuals of color, including Punjabi farmers in California’s Imperial Valley, from marrying Caucasians. It wasn’t until the landmark Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that all race-based legal restrictions on marriage were declared unconstitutional. With this history in mind,
over 60 Asian-American organizations joined legal briefs supporting marriage equality in The Marriage Cases in California in 2007.

Marriage equality, along with other issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) individuals, is often silenced and ignored in the South Asian community. Advocates and community members in California worked tirelessly to raise awareness about equality among South Asians. For example,
Trikone-SF developed posters, distributed in collaboration with Satrang, featuring South Asians opposing Proposition 8. South Asian Network (SAN) spoke at a press conference expressing concerns about the initiative. SAN and Satrang also coordinated a march in Artesia’s “Little India.” The struggle for equality continues with rallies against Proposition 8 continuing after Election Day and lawsuits filed against the initiative for violating the Constitution.

If you want to learn more about the range of issues affecting the South Asian LGBTIQ community, check out SAN and Satrang’s groundbreaking needs assessment report,
No More Denial, and the LGBTIQ section of A National Action Agenda: Policy Recommendations to Empower South Asian Communities.

South Asians in the 2008 elections

How have South Asians been getting involved in the 2008 elections? How have the ways that South Asians been involved in the civic and political process changed or evolved? What kind of voter turnout can we expect from the South Asian community on Election Day? What’s at stake for South Asians in this election?



Hear the answers to these questions and more in “South Asians in the 2008 elections,” SAALT’s pre-election webinar. We were joined by Vijay Prashad (Trinity College Professor of International Studies and the author of Karma of Brown Folk among other works), Karthick Ramakrishnan (one of the main collaborators in the National Asian American Survey), Seema Agnani (Executive Director of Chhaya CDC, a community development nonprofit based in Queens, New York), Ali Najmi (Co-founder of Desis Vote in New York) and Aparna Sharma and Tina Bhaga Yokota (Members of South Asian Progressive Action Collective in Chicago). The full video of the webinar is here<http://www.saalt.org/categories/South-Asians-in-the-2008-Elections-Online-Webinar-/>. Stay tuned for SAALT’s post-election webinar, during which guests will dissect the election results, report the findings of multilingual exit polling and look forward to the transition to the new Adminstration and Congress.

Have you seen “Raising Our Voices”?

In January 2001, SAALT began work on a 26-minute documentary entitled “Raising Our Voices: South Asian Americans Address Hate.” Produced by Omusha Communications and guided by SAALT Board members and volunteers, the documentary set out to raise awareness about the increasing hate crimes and bias incidents affecting South Asian communities, especially in the late 1990s. In fact, in 1997 and 1998, South Asians were reporting the highest incidences of bias-motivated crimes in the broader Asian American community.

The documentary features South Asian survivors of hate crimes and their families in Queens, New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, as well as organizers, lawyers and community advocates who mobilized the South Asian community and demanded justice.  When the film was completed two weeks before September 11th, 2001, little did we know how the landscape of the South Asian community in the United States would change.  With the alarming increase of hate crimes, bias incidents, and profiling that South Asians, especially those who are Sikh and Muslim, endured in the days and months after 9/11, SAALT re-envisioned the documentary and shot additional footage.

The documentary has been out since 2002, but you may not have seen it in its entirety yet. It has been used in classrooms and townhalls around the country and we encourage you to engage with it, comment on it, and if possible, to share it with friends, family, coworkers and community members.

You can view it here:

Part 1

Part 2 Please email us at saalt@saalt.org with your feedback, reactions, and comments. Feel free to use this documentary in your community, university, or your personal network of colleagues and friends.