NEW YORKCouncilman Daniel Dromm handed a fat check to four immigrant groups in his Jackson Heights district in Queens on Tuesday. The check, $100,000 designated for local groups, is part of $4.5 million the councilman secured for immigrants across the city.
The money will be used to provide English language classes and affordable legal counseling for low-income immigrants.
There are so many people who want to learn English, but the opportunity is not there, says Dromm. Of the 1.23 million adults in the city with a low proficiency in English, about 3 percent are enrolled in English-language programs.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg had originally cut $5 million in Immigrant Opportunities Initiative (IOI) funding from the fiscal year 2011 budget. Dromm, who is chairman of the Immigration Committee, succeeding in reducing this cut to a mere $500,000.
Immigrants in District 25 expressed their gratitude to Dromm for what they appreciate was an extraordinary feat in this economic climate.
Dromm’s Jackson Heights District is made up of an estimated 65 to 68 percent immigrants of many different ethnicities. In spite of such a high immigrant population, the area has never received IOI funding. The $100,000 in IOI funding Dromm brought home will be spread among: Make the Road New York (MRNY), which has been at the forefront of immigrant advocacy in the city; the Ecuadorian International Center (EIC); Queens Community House; and Sheba USA, started by Bangledeshi women to provide mutual support to each other as they integrate into American society and industry.
Veronica Piedra of EIC says they have always relied heavily on discretionary funding. The $25,000 granted the EIC on Tuesday will carry this nonprofit thorough fiscal year 2011 without having to apply for additional grants.
We have seen a lot of the nonprofits that have worked in the past with us disappear because of lack of funds, lamented Piedra. She said securing discretionary funding has become increasingly competitive. As the smaller organizations close their doors, more pressure is put on those that remain to meet the need.
Come fiscal year 2012, she will again be looking for funding. Piedra and others hope Dromm will be able to repeat this year’s funding success in the future.
Jiaro Alvaran got up to speak in nearly perfect English about the situation he lived with for many years before joining language classes offered by MRNY:
Some of us without English, the skills that we need, feel so lost that we even think about committing suicide.
Dromm further illustrated the story of Alvaran and others like him: Imagine coming to this country and having to learn the language, trying to go to your child’s school to register your child in school. [Imagine] visiting the doctorgoing to the hospital, and not speaking the language to be able to describe what your problem is. This is why these funds are so necessary, concluded Dromm.
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