Recently, we had the pleasure of organizing the first Regional Interagency Working Group roundtable with members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Boston. One of the RIWG's goals is to bring the Federal government to local communities. We had a constructive dialogue about how we could further develop partnerships with the AAPI community in order to tackle the challenges of accessing government services and programs. Speakers from the US Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Small Business Administration, and the Social Security Administration assembled to not only present their respective agency's work, but to also answer questions from attendees.
We are proud to report that the inaugural roundtable for Region 1 was a success. Staff from the Federal agencies responded directly to questions about issues surrounding workers' rights, economic development and assistance, and health and social services. The discussions included how limited English proficient individuals not only had difficulty accessing programs for small business and home loans, but also did not know how to access the technical assistance programs designed to assist applicants, due to the language barrier. Issues of language access arose again concerning access to worker protections laws and the importance of providing that information in culturally sensitive and linguistically relevant ways.
Roundtable attendees also requested there be more opportunities to engage with each individual agency to further strengthen and build new partnerships between their friends and neighbors and the Federal government. Given that Region 1 RIWG members possess decades of experience in the Federal government, we are well-positioned to help open the doors of the government to those who have been left out for too long. But most importantly, we also have the energy and the commitment to continue to confront these and many other issues with the AAPI community in the days and weeks ahead.
Roberto Medina is the Regional Public Affairs Officer for the Social Security Administration. Kenneth An is the Director of the Boston office for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both are members of the White House Initiative on AAPIs’ Regional Interagency Working Group, Region 1.