By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project
NCLR hosted a national call today for leaders from the NCLR Affiliate Network, the NCLR Action Network, members of the press, and others engaged with the Hispanic community for a discussion on how to address the country’s budget challenges with a balanced approach that protects vulnerable families. We were joined by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D–CA); Jason Furman, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council; and Julie Rodriguez, Associate Director of Latino Affairs and Immigration for the White House Office of Public Engagement. In case you missed it, the call was recorded and is available at www.nclr.org/federalbudget.
According to the exit polls, more than 12 million Latinos cast their vote last month. Like all Americans, Latino voters went to the polls with the economy on their minds. The Hispanic community has spoken, and they overwhelmingly favor a fair, balanced, and shared approach to deficit reduction. More than 700 people signed up for today’s call, which shows that our community’s deep civic participation is continuing. Hispanic voters are watching carefully to see how federal policymakers address the so-called fiscal cliff in ongoing debates on the federal budget.
NCLR Affiliates on the call wanted to know if lawmakers and the Obama administration will raise taxes on working families or gut critical investments in students and workers. For example, Dixon Slingerland, Executive Director of the Youth Policy Institute in Los Angeles, raised the issue of unemployment among Latino youth, which is over 20 percent nationwide. He stressed the importance of providing services for Latino disconnected youth who are interested in returning to school or finding work. Dixon made a strong case for policymakers to shift their focus to a major jobs package to address the persistent unemployment crisis.
Cynthia F. Figueroa, President and CEO of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, based in Philadelphia, pointed out that poverty and inequality have risen greatly over the last four years in our nation’s urban centers. Parents are working multiple part-time jobs or low-paying full-time jobs to make ends meet. In this economy, the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit have been lifelines to Latino families and children. She pressed the White House to stand firm and not sacrifice these potent antipoverty tools. Figueroa also highlighted the importance of investing in kids and maintaining important funding for education programs that our youth need.
Olivia Mendoza, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization in Denver, shared that one in four Latinos in Colorado and two-fifths of children statewide rely on Medicaid for vital health coverage. It is no secret that Medicaid is a prime target for cuts. She asked how the White House would protect the gains won through the Affordable Care Act.
Finally, Stephen Torsell, Executive Director of Homes on the Hill in Columbus, Ohio, called attention to the ongoing fight against foreclosures and vacant and abandoned properties in his state. He asked how the administration aims to preserve funding for vital housing and financial coaching services such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Counseling Program, which has been to be one of the most effective ways of preventing unnecessary foreclosures.
NCLR appreciates the time that the White House staff took to respond to these questions and others by leaders serving Hispanic families. We hope the administration and Congress take notice of the issues put on the table by those closest to the community.
Latinos sent President Obama back to the White House because of his commitment to fighting for working families. The fiscal cliff is his first opportunity to act on those campaign promises. We all agree that something must be done to lower the federal deficit. However, it is wrong to ask working families to sacrifice education, health care, and their children’s well-being to give tax breaks to people and corporations that do not need them. Smart investments in education, jobs, and housing will help hardworking families move up the economic ladder—and that will benefit us all. This is our vision of a fair economy where prosperity is shared by everyone and the most vulnerable among us are protected.