Congressman Meeks urged Richmond Hill Guyanese to apply for gov’t grants

Dear Editor,

Congressman Gregory Meeks, who represents  the 6th. District of NY encompassing the greater Richmond Hill area,  met with Guyanese community leaders in a town hall style meeting on Thursday  evening to listen to their concerns.

The Congressman took questions and offered assistance on problems the community faces. Meeks has been serving as Congressman for  the 6th. District for 11 years.

He serves as the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and is also a member of the Financial Services Committee of the House.  He previously served as the Chair of the  Sub-Committee of International Monetary Policy and Trade when the Democrats were  in the majority.  The Democrats lost the House in January. Meeks thanked the Guyanese community for the  invitation so “I can dialogue with the  community”.

The Congressman said he does not have great  news for the district or the country.  “I don’t want to mislead you and paint a rosy picture. We are in the  worst financial crisis since the depression and the Republicans are in control.  So resources are hard to  get.  For two years, earmarks were banned and I haven’t had any for the district.  Republicans don’t want to deal with  issues affecting poor and middle class people.  So it is not about to get better.  I can’t get earmarks or pork for the  district but it is possible to get government grants and I want to guide the  community to apply for these grants.  I want to help small businesses which are the backbone of America and of  this community”.

The Congressman noted that his district has  the largest number of South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans in the country.  He said he is aware of issues affecting  the community and wants to address them.  “Government should not be an obstacle.  I want to make government easy so it can  address peoples’ problems to make their lives  better”.

Asked about immigration and religious  sponsorship, the Congressman’s staff said church sponsorship has become  difficult because of widespread fraud and bogus churches.  The Congressman said the Democrats and  the President have been trying to get an amnesty programme passed but the  Republicans are opposed.  He said  the Democratic House passed the Dream Act that would have granted residency to  undocumented college students but the Senate Republicans blocked its passage in  the Senate and the bill died.  Meeks  said he is in favour of Comprehensive Immigration Reform but noted “there is no hope  for immigration reform in this Congress”.

Asked about police harassment of Guyanese in  Richmond Hill and the planned closure of Richmond Hill high school where  hundreds of Guyanese are enrolled, Meeks said “those are local matters that  don’t fall under federal purview”.  However, he said he is willing to be an advocate and talk to legislators  from the City Council and the State Legislature.  He suggested that the community seek  the intervention of the Council members of the area to address these local  matters.

The Congressman assured the community that  the Democrats have been battling the Republicans and will do all possible to  address medicare and the employment situation, debt ceiling, taxation, etc.  Meeks said the unemployment in the district is 15%. The Congressman is hosting a  job fair on May 6 at York College to help people find jobs. He said the  community should seek assistance from the Jamaica Business Resource Center and  the York College Small Business Development Corporation to develop their small  businesses.

In response to a question, that foreclosed  homes from the community are directed to realtors from Long Island and people  from the community are not being given an opportunity to acquire these  foreclosed properties, Meeks said that home foreclosure is a big issue in the  District.  “It is an old boys’network that get the foreclosure list and access to buy the properties.

I have addressed this issue with Fanny  Mae and Freddie Mac.  They said our realtors must be registered and once they get registered, they should be able to  get access to purchase or sell foreclosed properties.  I agree that people from the community  should get the first opportunity to foreclosed properties”.

Meeks told the gathering that his committee  he has been battling the Republicans to increase aid to poor countries like  Guyana.

The Congressman appealed to the community to  file for citizenship if they are qualified residents.  “You must register to vote to make your  voices heard.  We have got to  organize to retake the majority in  Congress”.

Meeks  said he loves the diversity of the population of his district. He said: “America  is a nation of immigrants and immigrants like you make America  better”.

Yours  faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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