Last Thursday, the Region IV Interagency Working Group hosted its first Community Roundtable for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders in Atlanta, Georgia. This meeting was co-hosted by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS). Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council issued proclamations to CPACS for its collaborative effort in working with the AAPI community.
It was wonderful to see community members and leaders, community organizations, partners and federal agencies come together, to learn about and discuss strategies for addressing the needs of the AAPI community. Importantly, the Region IV IWG was committed to moving beyond words to action, and also hosted an AAPI Affordable Care Act Enrollment Summit immediately after the AAPI Community Roundtable.
During the AAPI Community Roundtable, the first presentation provided a brief history of the AAPI community in the South. I appreciated hearing from AAPI community leaders and members who shared their stories about their lives in Atlanta. This provided an important framework for the conversations that would follow.
Next, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) District Director Denise Frazier spoke about immigration and the AAPI community. She shared important information about programs available to assist AAPI immigrants and their families. Immigration plays such a large role in emerging AAPI communities, it was critical to have this conversation with the AAPI leaders in Atlanta.
After this plenary session, the attendees split into four issue-based discussions focused on: (1) Health and Human Services, (2) Housing and Education, (3) Employment and Small Business, and (4) Emergency Preparedness and Civic Engagement. The discussions were each led by a member of the Region IV IWG and facilitated by officials from nine federal agencies, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Education, Small Business Administration, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, General Services Administration, Social Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Department of Justice.
These small groups provided an opportunity for community members and leaders to engage directly with federal officials, making these discussions much more meaningful and a great start to building working relationships between the federal government and the AAPI community in Atlanta.
Although it had already been a very productive day, the first AAPI Affordable Care Act Enrollment Summit at CPACS was held directly after the Region IV roundtable. The March 31 deadline to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is rapidly approaching, so CPACS made sure that more than 20 in-person assisters were available on-site to help community members learn about the Health Insurance Marketplace in over a dozen languages and receive assistance to enroll in health insurance.
This Summit was a much-needed effort for the AAPI community, and many individuals and families benefited from this event, including one mother who had been struggling to enroll in health insurance since January 2014. With the assistance provided by CPACS, she received in-person help to enroll in a health insurance plan. Over 50 families were able to enroll as a result of this event.
After a busy and informative day, I am grateful that stronger relationships are being built between Region IV’s federal agencies and the AAPI community. There are many passionate and dedicated people working on issues that are vital to the AAPI community and, with more events like this, I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of a meaningful partnership. Together through solidarity and commitment, we can help serve the needs of all Americans and build a stronger nation.
Dr. Renard L. Murray is co-chair of the WHIAAPI Regional Interagency Working Group and the Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the Atlanta and Dallas Regional Offices.