No Cliff, Yet Danger Remains and the Stakes are High

By Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR

Two weeks ago, Congress steer us away from the so-called fiscal cliff and many of us thought we were out of danger, yet the threat is greater than ever.  The agreement, which prevented tax hikes on working families, raised taxes on the affluent, and extended unemployment insurance, was a good deal for hardworking, taxpaying Latinos, but lawmakers disagreed on spending cuts and fell well short of the $3.7 trillion needed to stabilize the debt.  Congress and the President now have two months to work out a deal or face automatic cuts in sensitive areas of the budget that will affect both parties—and millions of Americans.

Experts predict that by March the government will run out of cash to pay its bills.  Since we need congressional approval to borrow money, negotiators need to work fast.

The Latino vote flexed its muscle in the presidential election and Congress now has more Latino representatives than ever.  However, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives pledge to withhold support for lifting the debt ceiling unless all of the savings come from spending cuts to programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—programs that many Latinos depend on to survive.  On the other hand, the White House seeks a split between increased tax revenue and cuts to spending.

Once the fiscal cliff was “avoided,” many Hispanic leaders and voters may have understandably turned their attention toward immigration reform, another urgent national priority, but it may be perilous to look past the fiscal debate.  Negotiators should know that Latinos haven’t left the table and our economic, educational, and health interests are not bargaining chips.  A good deal would balance taxes and spending, including through investments that generate economic growth and create jobs.  This will improve Latinos’ financial outlook by maintaining economic ladders that move families out of poverty and into the middle class.  A good deal would do no harm and protect the vulnerable among us.  Hispanic leaders and voters should expect to be heard in this debate, and we must do all we can to ensure that negotiators continue to hear us.

Learn more about NCLR’s position on the federal budget.

Let’s Give Our Children a More Certain Future This Holiday Season

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR, and Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus

The New Year usually symbolizes an opportunity for new beginnings and growth, but American households face a very different reality in 2013. On January 2, the fiscal cliff will leave many families with $2,000 less to put food on the table, or even a roof over their children’s heads, unless Congress comes to a budget agreement this month.

The fiscal cliff’s automatic, across-the-board budget cuts come at a time when children and their families are already struggling. Kids are facing the highest levels of poverty since the Great Depression, and Latino children are faring the worst: about 1-in-3 Hispanic kids live in poverty today. If sequestration goes into effect, federal funding for kids will be cut by an additional $6.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2013.

Children represent the largest constituency of Americans who would be impacted by the fiscal cliff at 30 percent of the U.S. population. And Latino children now make up nearly 1-in-4 children under the age of 18, and are critically important to our nation’s future. An analysis from NCLR (National Council of La Raza) highlights what sequestration means for our kids:

  • 96,000 children will not be served by Head Start, including 34,000 Latino kids
  • 80,000 children will not receive the Child Care Development Block Grant, including 16,000 Hispanic children
  • 1.8 million low-income public school students will not receive extra reading and math help because of cuts to Title I. The 37 percent of Latino kids who attend high-poverty schools could be affected by these cuts.

We saw from the recent presidential election that Latinos, as a voting bloc, highly favor greater investment in all our children. At 10 percent of the electorate and over 12 million voters, the historic turnout of Hispanic voters is a critical factor in urging politicians to take action for kids. A nationwide election eve poll released by Lake Research Partners on behalf of First Focus Campaign for Children (FFCC) shows overwhelming support from Latino voters for a wide range of federal investments in America’s children at levels higher than voters of all demographics and political affiliations.

The damage sequestration would mean to kids is simply unacceptable to Hispanic voters and the public at-large that broadly supports raising revenue and oppose budget cuts that impact kids. Latino children are one of the fastest growing segments of kids in school. Cutting programs that contribute to their development and ensure they are prepared to meet the requisites of a future labor market would not only hurt their personal future success but undercut the strength and competitiveness of the nation’s economy. This is not lost on Hispanic voters who consistently list education and children’s issues at the top of their priority list.

In another poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of FFCC, the majority of American voters disapprove of Congress making budget cuts to an array of children’s programs, including: education (75-24%), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (74-17%), Medicaid (73-27%), child abuse and neglect (66-33%), the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (63-34%), student loans and financial aid for college students (59-40%), Head Start (59-40%), and child care (54-44%).

Despite the popularity of investing in America’s next generation, discretionary spending on children has declined by about $2 billion since 2010. Children have borne a disproportionate share of the spending reduction to combat the federal deficit. In fact, the share of federal spending going to kids fell six percent in the past year.

The budget and impending sequestration clearly do not align with our children’s needs, and what voters want. Kids and their families deserve better. Let’s hold our lawmakers accountable. Contact your representative and tell them to keep kids off the table.

As Fiscal Cliff Draws Nearer, There Is No Time For a Plan B

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project

This New Year’s, many Americans across the country will have quite a bit weighing on their minds at a time when they are supposed to be clinking champagne glasses and making their resolutions for 2013.  In less than two weeks, our country will go over the fiscal cliff, resulting in a tax hike for millions of Americans and severe funding cuts to education, health care, and housing programs, to name a few.  That is unless Congress and the Obama administration can reach a deal on the federal budget.

For a brief moment earlier this week, it appeared that both sides were willing to compromise.

But that glimmer of hope was fleeting, and it seems negotiations are at a standstill.  Republican leadership is now pushing “Plan B,” which the House will vote on tonight at 6:00 p.m.

Simply put, “Plan B” is bad for Hispanic families.  It fails to meet NCLR’s principles for a fairer federal budget.  The plan further reduces tax liability for those at the top while pushing working families toward poverty.

The wealthiest would be the big winners should this plan pass.  Under “Plan B,” millionaires would get an estimated $50,000 tax cut, while 25 million middle class families making less than $250,000 a year would see their income taxes increase by an average of $1,000 apiece.  And,millions would lose access to the Child Tax Credit, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which are valuable tools that help prevent many Latinos from falling below the poverty line.

All of this while also allowing the sequester to move forward, gutting critical investments in education, jobs, and housing.  For example, in many poor districts, where federal funding covers a substantial portion of their budgets, for every $1 million that a school district receives in federal funding, sequestration will take away $82,000.  For districts with disproportionately large Hispanic and Black populations, that loss could have devastating effects.

“Plan B” is not a viable option for Latinos or this country.  Thankfully, President Obama has already issued a veto threat.  However, that does not mean both sides should stop trying to reach an agreement.  We strongly urge House Speaker Boehner and President Obama to put America’s working and middle-class families ahead of politics.  We need a fair approach to deficit reduction where everyone pays their share.

We must end this stalemate.  Far too much is at stake for the American people.  Nobody wins if we go over the fiscal cliff, and the clock is almost up.

Latinos Are Watching How Elected Officials Respond to the Fiscal Cliff

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.

Two White House Events Highlight Our Role in Making Latinos Healthier

By Manuela McDonough, Program Manager, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

For Hispanic Heritage Month this year, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) had an opportunity to participate in two very exciting events at the White House that celebrated the history, culture, and contributions of Latinos in the U.S.

A September 26 briefing focused on the promotores de salud (community health workers) program model.  Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and former NCLR Senior Vice President, opened the session by talking about the importance of addressing Latino health issues in a culturally competent manner.  Other high-level government officials and community-based researchers followed by sharing examples of successful promotores projects.

The highlight of the event, however, was a memo from President Obama honoring National Promotores de Salud and Community Health Workers Day.  In the memo, President Obama said that promotores “play a critical role in closing our country’s healthcare gaps,” and through their tireless efforts promotores are contributing to the well-being and health of this nation.  The president’s recognition of the hard work that these committed professionals and volunteers do give hope to the future of promotores programs.  These vital members of the community have been underappreciated for many years.

For the second event, NCLR had an opportunity work directly with the White House Office of Public Engagement to organize a Latino Health Policy Briefing for our Board members and Affiliates.  On October 11, approximately 30 Affiliate leaders and Board members gathered from throughout the country to participate in this briefing, which emphasized the Affordable Care Act.  The briefing provided an opportunity to elevate the key interests and needs of our Affiliates as we enter a new stage of health care reform implementation.  Our Affiliates and Board members heard from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the top health appointee from the National Economic Council, and the U.S. Chief Technology Officer on improving access via system transformation, achieving health equity, and improving cultural competency in service delivery.

Now that Hispanic Heritage Month is over, we are moving forward with a clearer understanding of the Obama administration’s approach to addressing the growing health needs of the Latino population.  We can be proud of what Latinos have done to make us a healthier country.

 

 

César E. Chávez to be Memorialized with a National Monument

Today the president will unveil the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, Calif. The monument’s home will be at one of our esteemed Affiliates, the César E. Chávez Foundation.

Watch the unveiling live at: http://t.co/60Fz3p4e. Things get started at 11:15 PT/2:15 ET.