By Charles Sercombe
The curious funding item in the new state budget for the National Association of Yemeni Americas (NAYA) recently caught the attention of the Detroit News.
The News reported that it is unknown, at this point, who sponsored what’s called an “enhancement grant” for NAYA.
The organization, which opened a new office in Hamtramck recently, received $500,000 from the state last year, and another $500,000 in the new state budget.
The issue of who’s behind the various enhancement grants has been a point of contention among some government watchdogs.
That concern has prompted Hamtramck State Representative Democrat Abraham Aiyash to promise more transparency in budget matters in the future.
Aiyash told The Detroit News:
“This is the first time Democrats have had full oversight of the budget since Reagan. We are going to do everything we can to reform the process to usher in more transparency.”
Aiyash, the first Arab-American to be appointed Majority Floor Leader, and state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), whose district includes Hamtramck, both have an office in the NAYA building.
Both said they had nothing to do with the enhancement grant that NAYA is receiving.
Instead, Aiyash said, it was State Sen. Jeff Irwin who sponsored it. Irwin’s district includes part of Washtenaw County – some 36 miles away from Hamtramck, where NAYA is located.
Irwin confirmed to The Review that he did sponsor the funding, but said has no direct connection to NAYA.
“I’m connected with them only through their budget requests, and that they serve residents of our state whom I have a responsibility to serve.”
NAYA offers a variety of social services including “social, educational, and cultural services and activities all focused on empowering and supporting women, children, and families,” according to its website.
Irwin told The Review that he was asked by the director of NAYA, who lives in his senate district, to sponsor the funding.
Asked why he sponsored the funding, Irwin said:
“Michigan benefits from being a welcoming place for people coming from other parts of the world. In addition to our moral responsibility to help our fellow humans who are facing war and poverty, it will benefit Michigan in the long-term to grow and support our Yemini neighbors.”
The organization also has two offices in Dearborn.
Posted Sept. 8, 2023