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Pressley channels aid to African immigrants

Avery Bleichfeld
Pressley channels aid to African immigrants
Rep. Ayanna Pressley speaks with attendees at an ACEDONE roundtable Tuesday. Pressley secured $643,000 dollars of federal funding for ACEDONE through Community Project Funding. PHOTO: AVERY BLEICHFELD

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and local community leaders last week celebrated new federal funding Pressley obtained for local nonprofit African Community Economic Development of New England (ACEDONE).

The $643,003 funding comes through Community Project Funding, which allows members of Congress to direct federal money to support projects from nonprofits or state or municipal governments in their home districts. Previously banned in 2011, Congress brought the practice back in 2021. Pressley secured almost $14 million in federal funding for 15 projects in the Massachusetts 7th Congressional district, including the funds for ACEDONE.

The funds for ACEDONE — which works to support African immigrants and refugees in Boston with business, health and education supports — are earmarked for the organization’s small-business support plan, which provides technical support and business plan assistance and networking between financiers and entrepreneurs. This was the first federal funding opportunity that ACEDONE has received.

At the Feb. 14 roundtable event, Pressley said that especially in light of the impacts of the pandemic, it is important to support small businesses.

“We know that we are in a very sobering landscape as we continue to feel the impacts of inflation and do the work of economic recovery to ensure that no worker, no family, no community, no business is left behind,” Pressley said. “And this investment will help us to make real on that. It is so important that we are providing the essential tools to ensure that our community members here today and the communities that they advocate for are not merely surviving but are thriving.”

Abdulkadir Hussein, ACEDONE’s CEO, said the organization is ready to use the funding to provide guidance to small businesses and support its microloan program.

“This is the critical time,” Hussein said. “There’s a lot of economic stress that’s going on in our community based on [how the] COVID crisis really exposed a lot of structural issues within our economic development activities. … This is an opportunity that will not be wasted a single minute. We are ready to utilize as soon as we have that money available to us, because we have businesses waiting for us to support.”

Yusuf Yassin, proprietor of Ascia Foods LLC, said that ACEDONE has been vital to his business’ survival.

“For me, as a business owner, if it was not for the support and the mentorship of ACEDONE, today I wouldn’t be in business,” Yassin said.

Early in the pandemic, Yassin said, his business was the only distributor offering halal food in the city. During that time, ACEDONE helped Ascia Foods secure contracts with the city as businesses had to close their doors. Even as things have opened up, Yassin’s business continues to service a couple of homeless shelters in the city.

At the event, Pressley also celebrated cooperation between communities and the government.

“I think it’s important in government that we govern cooperatively, and the best investments are those that are community-driven and government-endorsed,” Pressley said. “That way we are making the investments that are truly impactful, that are inspired, instructed and driven by those closest to the pain and the innovation.”

The event was attended by members of state and municipal government. State Sen. Liz Miranda, District 7 City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson and at-large City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune all spoke at the event.

The funding secured by Pressley will go to Massachusetts projects tackling a variety of issues, including education, health, business, housing and the environment. Of the 15 projects, nine — making up over $6.8 million in federal funds — are in Boston.

The five Boston programs receiving the most funding include a Massachusetts General Hospital project focused on mental health in Boston’s immigrant populations, which received $1.115 million. Receiving $1 million each are city of Boston programs focused on child support for unhoused families and on adult digital literacy, a Northeastern University program designed to help people earning associates degrees at Roxbury Community College earn a master’s degree on a shorter timeline, and a program run by the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts that helps build business infrastructure for Black-owned businesses.

ACEDONE, African immigrants, Rep. Ayanna Pressley
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