Assemblymembers Rivera and Conrad Announce $75,000 for Local Asian American/Pacific Islander Organizations

$25,000 each will be awarded to Burmese Community Services, Buffalo String Works, and the Karen Society of Buffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera was joined today by Assemblyman Bill Conrad as well as representatives from local AAPI (Asian American/Pacific Islander) organizations to announce that Assemblymember Rivera has secured $75,000 in funding for Buffalo’s AAPI community.

This year’s 2023-24 New York State budget includes a historic commitment of $30 million to the AAPI community across the state, an increase of $10 million from the funding allocated in last year’s budget.

Of that funding pot, Assemblymember Rivera worked to secure $25,000 for each of the following organizations in Buffalo: Burmese Community Services, Buffalo String Works, and the Karen Society of Buffalo.

New York has the largest AAPI community in the country and the 2020 census shows that it continues to grow at a faster rate than any other group. Specifically, this hard-fought funding will go toward a plan that not only equitably supports AAPI community-based organizations providing culturally responsive and linguistically competent services, but also addresses the systemic violence, racism, discrimination faced by AAPI communities.

Hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers quadrupled in 2021 and many other attacks went unreported — or simply weren’t classified as hate crimes.1

Additionally, AAPI New Yorkers are still recovering from the disproportionate impacts suffered from COVID-19, as well as the long-term consequences of the historic underfunding of their neighborhoods and communities.

In Buffalo, AAPI organizations are united through Burmese connections that include a shared language, common cultural traditions and a mutual ancestry. Many within Buffalo’s Burmese community have fled ethnic conflicts and violence back home before making their way to Western New York and creating thriving communities here.

The 2020 U.S. census revealed that the City of Buffalo gained population for the first time in 70 years, a trend fueled by an influx of immigrants and refugees, and Buffalo’s Burmese community, which numbers more than 10,000, has played a leading role.

Karen Society of Buffalo (KSB), a non-profit organization, provides the Karen community assistance with navigating systems, finding resources, and giving referrals as needed. The Karen are an ethnic group who have resided in Burma for more than 2,000 years, and many of them have fled Burma due to religious and ethnic persecution by the government.

KSB provides civic services to the Karen-Burmese refugees regardless of race, religion, and ethnic background. KSB also has an afterschool literacy program. All ethnicities from Burma are eligible and Karen and Burmese language services are available.

Buffalo String Works seeks to ignite personal and community leadership through accessible, youth-centered music education. The non-profit’s aim is to cultivate a positive space that supports their students’ development into curious, confident, committed individuals who make a difference in their new home.

The mission of Burmese Community Services is to assist refugees and immigrants from Burma, Thailand and Laos with issues related to language barriers, cultural adjustment, and to provide assistance with services and resources.

The non-profit frequently collaborates with stakeholders in Buffalo to address the needs of the growing population of Burmese in Buffalo and WNY. They also assist with school registration, food stamps, Medicaid, home energy assistance and re-certification with the NYS Department of Social Services, which allows refugees to get help whenever they need it.

Assemblymember Rivera’s ability to secure $75,000 in funding for these organizations will support critical programs that are uniquely suited to the needs of Buffalo’s AAPI neighborhoods and will build the capacity of local organizations to continue providing their services in the future.

Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera said, “Those within our state’s AAPI communities have long been overlooked and underfunded. This past session, my colleagues and I in the New York State Assembly Majority took the necessary steps to begin to rectify those funding inequities by providing a historic injection of state aid. With this crucial funding, Asian New Yorkers will receive the support they need to build sustainable systems and create thriving neighborhoods.”

Assemblyman Bill Conrad said, “Neither Buffalo nor New York State would be what they are today without the contributions of so many Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. When one chooses this community as their home or arrives in search of a safer and more prosperous future, we must answer that hopefulness with practical support. And I'm proud that this year's state budget provides historic backing of the AAPI community and the organizations that ease, enhance, and protect their experience here locally and across New York.”

Faustina Palmatier, Executive Director of Karen Society of Buffalo, said, “KSB started small with community leaders who share the same interests for the growth and livelihood of refugees from Burma, but today, our hands are caught up as we are serving a rapidly growing community. We are committed to building an organization that aligns with our mission as well as expanding and exploring new ways to collaborate with other communities who are working towards a common goal. Moreover, we are sharing our culture with others and cultivating our heritage so that we can pass it on to the next generation of our community.”

Maria Ta, Executive Director of Buffalo String Works, said, “Buffalo String Works is incredibly grateful for the support and advocacy of Assemblymember Rivera. The AAPI communities we support have grown over the years to be cornerstones of the larger community of Buffalo. We are fortunate to call them neighbors and friends. We look forward to continuing to develop our communities' next leaders through the power of music thanks to this funding as well as connect with new neighborhoods throughout Buffalo.”

Steven Sanyu, Executive Director of Burmese Community Services, said, “We are proud that the New York State Legislature have shown great support for the AAPI community, especially for refugees and immigrants. It will make us stronger, more resilient, and more innovative in the region.”