As part of President Joe Biden’s governmentwide initiative to advance equity and create special programs for minorities, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has launched an inaugural Latino Task Force dedicated to promoting economic opportunities for the Hispanic community. The new panel will also drive policy initiatives to advance equity for Latinos and create a “more inclusive Department through language access, procurement, and hiring,” according to an agency announcement issued this month. Career and political staff from all corners of the agency will be assembled to work on meeting the task force’s mission of “empowering the Hispanic community and bridging disparities.”
HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge is quoted in the press release saying that she is “in awe of the work our Hispanic colleagues have done to create the inaugural Latino Task Force,” which she describes as a “group that will bring us closer to accomplishing our agency’s pledge to equity, inclusion, and diversity.” A former congresswoman from Ohio who served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Fudge also said it is an “honor to serve alongside talented, unique, and hard-working public servants of all backgrounds, including the Latino community.” It is worth noting that shortly after being appointed HUD secretary, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel determined that Fudge violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits officials of the executive branch from conducting political campaigning in their official capacity. Among her goals as HUD chief is to put an end to discriminatory practices in the housing market.
The new Latino Task Force will help meet that objective by lowering barriers to entry for procurement opportunities, highlighting and uplifting current HUD policies affecting the Latino community and identifying improvement opportunities in agency communications. The panel will also identify ways to bolster Latino hiring at HUD and increase access to agency programs by ensuring materials such as applications and policies are available in Spanish. “Research shows that Hispanics experience severely inadequate housing at double the rate of non-Hispanics,” HUD writes in this month’s announcement, which states that the U.S. Hispanic population is over 62 million, making it the “largest ethnic-racial minority group in the country.” The task force was created because nearly 25% of Hispanic households met HUD’s criteria for “worst needs” by either paying more than half its income toward housing costs, living in severely inadequate conditions or both. Hispanic representation in federal government jobs is still lacking, the agency reveals, adding that it is only 9% of its workforce.
The Housing agency’s new Latino Task Force was inspired by the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics, launched by the president in the fall of 2021 to, among other things, help illegal immigrants—known as Dreamers—brought the U.S. as children. That project aims to understand the systemic causes of educational challenges faced by Latino and Hispanic students, address their inequitable treatment by eradicating disparities in disciplinary actions, ensure that they all have access to excellent teachers and school leaders, support equitable access to college-readiness courses and eliminate policies that lead to racial and socioeconomic segregation within schools. The program also works to advance racial equity and economic opportunity by connecting education to labor market needs and ensuring Hispanic and Latino communities have access to resources for economic success, such as in the areas of financial education, small business development, entrepreneurship, arts, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“It is important to ensure that from early childhood to higher education, Hispanic and Latino students, including Dreamers, can reach their highest potential,” the Biden executive order that inspired HUD’s Latino Task Force states, adding that although many are advancing at “Hispanic-Serving Institutions,” they face systemic inequitable barriers in accessing a high-quality education. “Due to systemic and historical inequities faced in the classroom, the high school graduation rate for Hispanic students is below the national average,” the order says, further revealing that Hispanic students are underrepresented in advanced courses in mathematics and science and can face language barriers in the classroom.