by Chanel Ward
The Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization (CLLARO) and UnidosUS held a roundtable on October 3rd, to a room of local community and policy leaders from Denver, CO and Washington, DC to focus on policies affecting Latino families.
Opening remarks from Colorado State Gov. Jared Polis began the discussion over coffee and a buffet style breakfast.
“We have a wonderful group of Latino leaders in the legislature, of course including our senate president and including a very strong Latinx caucus in the state assembly that are really making sure the voice of the community is heard,” opened Governor Polis, a former CLLARO board member, when they were still the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA).
“About forty cents of every dollar that you invest in taxes goes to education, it’s very important about providing opportunity for all of our residents, including our Latino residents and thanks to the hard work of the state legislature this year, full day kindergarten began across our state. So, every child, no matter where they live, is able to go to free, full day kindergarten,” said Gov. Polis.
Mike Cortés, Executive Director of CLLARO and moderator for the morning roundtable explained, “This event is focusing on policy decisions; both at the federal and the state level that are going to affect Latino families in Colorado.
“We’re especially concerned about access to healthcare and about economic security for Latino families, especially those tax policies and other economic policies that affect Latinas in the workforce,” said Cortés.
“These are folks that are working hard, not getting paid enough and have really important responsibilities at home, because they’re the ones that usually end up taking care of elderly parents and kids, working at least one job and under current policies and current labor market conditions, aren’t treated as well as they should be,” Cortés explained.
“We want to see what we can do in the way of congressional action before the presidential election, so we’re focusing on the 116th congress before 2020’s election and we’re also focused on the upcoming session of the state legislature,” Cortés explained. “We have several people here from the Latino Caucus who are legislatures, and the Governor, in addition to Congresswoman Diana DeGette who used to be a volunteer of ours back in the day when we were known as LARASA.”
Colorado Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutiérrez [D-4], Rep. Adrienne Benavidez [D-32], State Senator Dominick Moreno [D-21], and former Senator Polly Baca were just a few community leaders in attendance.
Cortés compared about the two longstanding organizations.
“UnidosUS, formerly known as the National Council of La Raza [NCLR] is an organization that has been around since 1968. CLLARO, which used to be known as LARASA, started in 1964. So, we’re both a couple of old timers and we are one of 300 local affiliates of UnidosUS.”
“We’re just really excited to have the opportunity to get Washington [DC] issues and Denver state house issues discussed in the same room, a room full of people who were invited because they’re really in a position to make a difference,” Cortés ended.
“We’re just really excited to have the opportunity to get Washington [DC] issues and Denver state house issues discussed in the same room, a room full of people who were invited because they’re really in a position to make a difference.”
Mike Cortés, CLLARO
Rafael Collazo, Director of Political Campaigns for UnidosUS explained the need for the unified effort in Colorado last week.
“[This] forum is really for UnidosUS and our local partners like CLLARO to really establish what our Latino family agenda is, not only for the rest of this congress, but going into really the next state legislation session in 2020 and then Congress in 2021,” stated Collazo.
“CLLARO, being an advocacy focused organization that’s doing a lot of work on the state and federal level, we thought it would be a perfect match for us to be able to share this information not only from the perspective of how these issues impact Latinos in Colorado from a federal level, but also some of the state policy we’re going to discuss.”
“It’s important to first of all bring the data to the conversation,” said Collazo, further explaining, “a lot of times activists sort of have an understanding of the issues, but this sort of gives them the ammunition to be able to advocate to their state legislators and their federal officials around the importance of bridging these gaps, whether it’s in health care access, whether it’s in the wealth gap and some of these other issues that not only impact Latinos, but specifically younger Latino families and Latina led families.
“There’s going to be a lot of issues we’re going to discuss here today, including the ongoing advocacy work that everyone’s doing here to get paid family medical leave passed in the state of Colorado, but one of the pieces that we’re really going to focus on from a federal level is to expand access to tax credits for the Latino community and the impact of it.”
Collazo went into detail, “For example, the earned income tax credit; the child tax credit elevates millions of Latinos out of poverty every year and if we can expand the income tax credit for a younger cohort of Latino workers, mostly Latina workers in their early twenties, that would impact 200,000 Latino families, just in Colorado.”
The event was productive in opening dialogue and unifying efforts in Colorado and across the nation.
Chanel Ward is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
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