ST. PAUL, Minn. (May 23, 2016) — Following the passage of the 2016 Supplemental Budget Bill, Senator Foung Hawj (DFL – East St. Paul) explained that while pleased with this session’s progress in addressing racial equity in Minnesota, there is still much more work to be done. The equity provisions included in the bill were proposed by the Senate Subcommittee on Equity, which was established in response to a U.S. Census report that some communities of color regressed economically while others stabilized or improved their standing.
Hawj served on the Equity Subcommittee, which reviewed and developed recommendations for addressing Minnesota’s persistent racial and economic disparities. He authored and supported bills that included community-based business grants and incubator services, education initiatives, workforce development programs, and youth programs. Several of the bills would provide outreach and services outside of the urban core, to people of color and low income individuals in suburban and rural Minnesota.
“I’m proud to have authored and championed several bills that address the needs of minority communities in Minnesota, including Asian, Latino, African American, Native American Indian, and East African communities like Somali and Oromo,” Hawj said. “I’d like to express my gratitude to Senators’ Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden for being adamant leaders of this cause, as well as the Governor for his support. I commend all of the grassroots and community organizations that contributed to this effort through a collaboration of ideas, outreach, and some of the most steadfast work I’ve ever witnessed.”
The final bill allocates $35 million in 2017, and ongoing funding in future budgets. Bills that Sen. Hawj authored, co-authored, and supported include:
- Grants to address economic disparities in Southeast Asian communities
- Grants to address economic disparities in Latino communities
- Grants to address economic disparities in American Indian communities
- Pathways to Prosperity program, which provides skills and career training
- Neighborhood Development Center business incubators
- Outdoor outreach for Southeast Asian Community that will benefit the Karen people of Burma
- Somali youth programs
- Ujamaa Place, which helps graduates move up the economic ladder
Sen. Hawj explained that the Equity article of the Supplemental Budget Bill is a first step at addressing racial disparities in Minnesota.
“While more funding should have been allocated to combat disparities, passing this bill is just the beginning in our efforts to level out the playing field among all communities – regardless of color or ethnicity,” he said. “The thing that makes our state great is its diversity and acceptance of all people. But we can and should do better, so passing legislation to create a more equitable state is a first step. It shows promise that we’re on the right track and I’m hopeful for a future that allows all Minnesotans to succeed.”
For more information, Sen. Hawj’s office can be contact at 651.296.5285.