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WHIAAPI and PAC-AAPI Highlights Accomplishments for 2019 to 2021


Tuesday, January 19, 2021



WASHINGTON, D.C. – Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Tina Wei Smith today highlighted the major accomplishments of her tenure as Executive Director from 2019 to 2021. Smith is also appreciative of the many partnerships and collaborations from across the federal government in support of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, particularly through the challenges and difficulties of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been an honor to serve as Executive Director of such an important Initiative and Commission. I am proud of the work that we have been able to accomplish together in less than fourteen months,” said Tina Wei Smith. “Despite the challenges of 2020 – the pandemic and civil unrest – at the very core, this was an opportunity to serve the AAPI community and all Americans. I am proud of our efforts and I am thankful to each of you who made the concerns of the AAPI community a priority. We would not have accomplished as much as we did without the support of both Co-Chairs of WHIAAPI, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.”

“We had a very productive year in 2020 in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic challenges,” said Dr. Hsu, Chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, at the recent open meeting of the Commission on January 13, 2021. “But looking ahead of 2021, there are many opportunities from our report and recommendations to continue to advance the economic empowerment of all AAPIs.”

Highlights from 2019:

  • Executive Order 13872 was signed on May 13, 2019 with a ceremonious event in the President’s Oval Office, which was also followed week later by a White House AAPI Heritage Month event with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
  • At the conclusion September 2019, the Initiative and Commission were moved from the U.S. Department of Education to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which provided a focus on economic empowerment and workforce development for the AAPI community. Established at U.S. Department of Commerce, both the Initiative and Commission are `administratively and financially supported by the Minority Business Development Agency. Prior to this Administration, both the Initiative and Commission were previously established at Commerce under President George W. Bush.
  • Executive Director Smith officially arrived on December 9, 2019, and she hit the ground running by establishing the new office, reestablishing the interagency working group and officially installing the new Commissioners.

Highlights from 2020:

  • On January 27, 2020, the White House hosted the 2020 Lunar New Year Celebration, which was held in conjunction with the Swearing-in Ceremony of the 14 Commissioners of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. They were sworn-in by Vice President Mike Pence and presiding over this ceremony were both Co-Chairs of WHIAAPI, Secretary Ross and Secretary Chao as well as U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. There was also a special dedication ceremony for the 2020 Year of the Rat stamp.
  • From January through March, Secretary Chao, the Initiative and the Commission, including Chairman Paul Hsu, participated in business and community roundtables in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Houston. Executive Director Smith also attended an AAPI Town Hall with other federal officials in Detroit. Unfortunately, the pandemic cancelled scheduled events in Austin, Cleveland and Chicago. By mid-March, both the Initiative and the Commission moved all their engagements online and hosted virtual events and meetings.
  • From the Spring of 2020 through the Fall of 2020, the Initiative hosted several White House Conference Calls to highlight top level updates from federal officials, including cabinet members, on issues pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic for the AAPI community. This included U.S Department of Justice providing updates and discussions on anti-AAPI bias and hate crimes concerns, U.S. Small Business Administration sharing about disaster relief funds, and U.S. Department of Labor providing information on how to keep businesses open and workers safe through the pandemic. The Initiative and the Commission also hosted Town Halls and Roundtable Discussion to hear concerns from the AAPI community.
  • The Initiative hosted three large-scale, weeklong events: AAPI Heritage Month Virtual Events (May), the Young Leaders Summit (July), and the Future of Business Virtual Events Series (October). Each included collaboration with many federal agencies and departments with cabinet members as keynote speakers and high-level officials providing presentations on federal resources and opportunities.
  • The Commission hosted three quarterly meetings: the virtual Inaugural Meeting coincided with AAPI Heritage Month and was followed by an AAPI Town Hall (May); the Second Quarterly Meeting included meetings at the White House with Commissioners joining both in-person and virtually (August); and the virtual Third Quarterly Meeting included a virtual White House celebration of Filipino American History Month.
  • Throughout 2020, the Initiative participated and spoke at many internal and external meetings and events to advocate and work with others on how the federal government can better serve the AAPI community. This included the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) Directors Interagency Council monthly meetings, the Small Business Procurement Advisory Council (SBPAC) monthly meetings, the White House Opportunity NOW, and National ACE meetings with AAPI Chambers of Commerce. The Initiative also engaged with several agencies and organizations on higher education and workforce development concerns, including presenting at the Lockheed Martin Diversity STEM Strategy Session, discussing with U.S. Department of Education on the AANAPISI Program, and providing a platform to highlight federal career opportunities for new graduates and young professionals.

Highlights from 2021:

  • January 4, 2021, the Initiative launched its new website under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The new website includes a “Contact Us” page, and federal resources, including COVID-19 information in multiple Asian languages, “Resources for Businesses”, and “Work for Us”. By February 2021, several of the pages will be made available in several Asian languages.
  • On January 11, 2021, the Commission released its 2020 Report: Advancing Economic Empowerment for the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – A Call to Action. Executive Order 13872, which established the Commission, called for the economic empowerment of these communities, with specific reference to advancing relevant evidence-based research and analysis as well as focusing on populations in the U.S. insular areas. The Report proposes actionable recommendations for the Executive Branch to enhance economic resources and to implement transformational solutions that ensure full AAPI participation in the U.S. economy. Specifically, and in accordance with the President’s Executive Order 13872 on Economic Empowerment of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the Commission recommends the following: 1) Report better data on the AAPI experience; 2) Expand AAPI workforce development opportunities; 3) Enhance access to economic resources and opportunities for AAPI-owned enterprises; and, 4) Improve the economic condition of U.S. Pacific Islanders.
  • On January 13th, the Commission convened virtually for its Fourth Quarterly Meeting and another AAPI Town Hall. Secretary Ross, Chair of the Initiative, presided over the meeting and provided welcome remarks, thanking the Commission and the Initiative for their service. The Commissioners also welcomed former Secretary of Transportation and former Co-Chair of Initiative, Elaine L. Chao, and discussed recommendations to the Executive Branch on how the federal government can better assist AAPI-owned businesses through current and future challenges.
  • At this same open meeting, the Commission announced the follow-up to their 2020 Report, which is a survey of AAPI business owners to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business operations and the AAPI community. The survey is currently in its 60 days of public comment preceding submission of the collection to the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Also at this meeting, the WHIAAPI Regional Network shared about its work through the regional leads of each of the ten regions. In continuation of the Future of Business series, the WHIAAPI RN will collaborate on five more sessions to provide the public with updates on federal resources and opportunities. WHIAAPI RN Co-Chairs, Paul Chang of U.S. Department of Labor and Ben Raju of U.S. Small Business Administration, encouraged the public to reach out with any questions, comments or inquiries about Initiative, Commission or the federal government.

Executive Director Smith will step down on January 20, 2021 and interim staff will continue the work of the Initiative. The current Commissioners of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will serve out their term, which continues through 2021.


Advancing the Economic Empowerment of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

About WHIAAPI & PAC-AAPI: Established by President Trump, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs (PAC-AAPI) work to broaden access by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) employers and communities to economic resources and opportunities, thus empowering AAPIs to improve the quality of their lives, raise the standard of living for their families and communities, and more fully participate in our economy. The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (PAC-AAPI) is established pursuant to Executive Order 13872 (May 13, 2019) to advise the President, through the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Transportation. The PAC-AAPI and the WHIAAPI Office is located in the US. Department of Commerce and the Minority Business Development Agency provides financial and administrative support for the performance of the Commission’s functions.