Asian-Americans milking 9-11

Posted: Dec 14, 2001 12:00 AM
Charity vultures continue to swoop down on New York City and feast on Sept. 11 funds. Left-leaning Asian-American activists are in on the act -- collecting dubious race-based relief funds and spouting bureaucratic mumbo jumbo to justify themselves. Consider: The United Way gave more money to an Asian-American social services group than it did to the New York Fire Department for family grief counseling. The non-profit Asian American Federation of New York snagged $250,900 "to coordinate supportive services and relief efforts for Chinatown residents." By comparison, the September 11th Fund distributed $225,000 to the NYC Fire Department for grief counseling to firefighters and families. There's something wrong with this picture. The AAFNY is made up of 36 Asian-American health and human service agencies. Charlie Lai, the federation's policy and planning director, told me that $200,000 of the United Way grant will go this week to four of its members to "connect affected individuals to appropriate services" and help them "fill out a slew of government forms." Will "affected individuals" get any of the money? Not a dime. In fact, Lai says, direct cash relief for victims is "really the least important component for us." Instead, the money will go to human resource experts who will create "a more focused pathway to social services," assist displaced workers "in evaluating their employability skills," and "broaden the spectrum of human potential." The rest of the federation's United Way grant -- $50,000 -- will be used to "implement and coordinate advocacy." In other words, Lai says, "It's for me. For my salary." Three of the Asian American Federation's other members -- the Hamilton-Madison House for elderly Chinatown residents, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Asian Americans for Equality -- each received additional grants from the United Way's September 11th Fund. Where has all that money gone? The grant to the Hamilton-Madison House, $90,312 for "emergency expenses," seems legitimate. Shelter for seniors affected by the attacks is a worthy cause directly related to Sept. 11. The other two grants, however, smack of politicized ethnic pandering and redundancy. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a pro-affirmative action litigation shop, got $30,000 to provide "legal help and preventative measures against hate violence." The group did not return my call seeking more details. Asian Americans for Equality, which secures "entitlement services" for minorities, received $56,100 "to cover expenses incurred due to Sept. 11 events and to provide technical assistance in rebuilding the Chinatown community." The group's executive director, Chris Kui, explained to me that 11,000 workers in Chinatown lost their jobs as a result of the terrorist attacks and were "not able to work for a week or two." So will the funds go to the workers? No. The group will spend it on advising them how to get government aid. Many are "not aware how to apply for FEMA assistance," Kui noted. So his group conducts workshops "to let people know the benefits they're entitled to" and "how to fill out forms." Yet another group, the Asian American Business Development Center Inc., received $120,000 to "provide loan application assistance to Chinatown businesses and residents applying for federal disaster relief." The Garment Industry Development Corporation received $57,300 to provide the same services to factory owners and workers. I don't question the fact that many workers in Chinatown -- just as in Tribeca, Little Italy, and countless other neighborhoods outside of Ground Zero -- have been adversely affected by the terrorist attacks. But how many people do they need to "advise" and "coordinate" and "connect" them with federal aid? As an American of Asian descent who contributed to the September 11th fund, I am ashamed by this opportunistic behavior and angered at the United Way's deception. When my husband and I donated, we were thinking of the pregnant widows left behind when their firefighter husbands perished at the World Trade Center; the orphaned children of cops, office workers, custodians, and brokers of all races who were murdered at Ground Zero; and the relatives of those who suffered horrible fates when forced to jump 100 stories to their deaths. I should have known the money would end up in the hands of welfare-state wheeler-dealers playing the race card. The scavengers of tragedy always end up on top.
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