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White House holds economic summit in Hawaii

On Friday, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders hosted an economic summit at the Hawai’i State Capitol building.

The event was the fifth in a series of regional economic summits being held across the United States this year. The first was held in Philadelphia with others held in Chicago, Seattle and New York.

The series was initially launched by the Biden-Harris administration in January after the release of the national strategy for advancing equity, justice and opportunity for AANHPI communities.

“Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders were devastated by the disproportionate economic impacts of the pandemic, and we saw how this impacted families, workers, and businesses here in Hawai‘i,” said Krystal Ka‘ai, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on AANHPI, reported Big Island Now. “Today we are making good on the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to expand economic opportunity and provide the tools community members need to recover and thrive. Because AA and NHPI small businesses are the backbone of our economy. And when they succeed, we all prosper.” Ka’ai is the first Native Hawaiian to be appointed to the role.

During the summit, a panel discussed the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to their national strategy for AANHPI.

RELATED: White House launches economic summits to empower AANHPI communities

Erika Moritsugu, deputy assistant to the president and AANHPI senior liaison at the White House, discussed her newly introduced role. Moritsugu is from Hawaii like Ka’ai.

“Krystal and I had the honor to work with the late, great, beloved Sen. Daniel Akaka, and he taught us how to lead with aloha, ” said Moritsugu, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “We bring that spirit of aloha to the work we do for the Biden-Harris administration, with our colleagues.”

With the summit held in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, the National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship amongst other national departments and local leaders, breakout sessions regarding small-business energy programs followed the panel. This included connecting people to job, grant and program opportunities through federal agencies.

“The past years have brought to the forefront the urgency of supply chain resilience and formidable infrastructure. It also highlighted the necessity of diversifying energy sources and turning to sustainable energy practices. Hawai‘i, for example, has been hit especially hard by rising gas prices,” said Chiling Tong, National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship’s president and CEO.

An attendee addresses a panel at the White House Economic Summit in Honolulu
Photo by: Alexandra Kahn for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders

“Hawaii entrepreneurs have shown incredible resiliency over the last two years and have set records with new small business applications,” said Jennifer Kim, associate administrator for the Office of Field Operations. “The Small Business Administration is committed to reaching AANHPI entrepreneurs through these summits and the year-round work of our local district offices. We support the innovation, competition, and unique experiences that AANHPI communities bring to the larger small business community.”

On February 16, Biden signed Executive Order 14091 that increased the share of federal contracting spending that is awarded to small disadvantaged businesses.

The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders also met the Hawai’i Capitol building on Thursday to discuss recommendations for advancing equity for AANHPI communities.

The 25-member Commission advises the President on how private, public, and non-profit sectors can contribute to advancing equity and opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

The Commission revised and approved 20 recommendations for approval from Biden with most of the recommendations targeting language access, one of the six policymaking areas. These recommendations include supporting endangered native languages, providing resources for groups with limited English proficiency, and preserving language in its artistic form through a cultural arts competition along with a campaign supporting anti-discrimination policies.

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