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Rio Grande Valley Faces Generational Challenges to Reducing Poverty

Mike Hernandez III

The Chief Executive Officer of the Dallas - Fort Worth based company D & M Leasing, Micheal Albert “Mike” Hernandez III focuses his philanthropy on anti-poverty initiatives. A native of Brownsville, Texas, Mike Hernandez III founded the OP 10.33 PAC to spur economic and political change in Cameron County, one of Texas’ poorest counties.

For generations, communities in the Rio Grande Valley, which includes Cameron County, have upheld discriminatory practices that have resulted in reduced or denied opportunities to poor residents and people of color, according to a report by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Examples of these discriminatory practices include long-lasting segregation in schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces, as well as stark disparities in access to health care, education, and economic opportunities. These disparities have led to an alarmingly high child poverty rate in the area, far above the state and national averages.
Research analyst and report author Kristie Tingle points out that the history of the area influences the current conditions. Discriminatory policies and other forms of inequality reach across generations, due to conditions such as chronically under-resourced schools and unequal and inadequate access to job-training programs.
Recommendations to address the high poverty rate in the area include increasing access to affordable insurance and the Medicaid program, expanding child nutrition programs, and enhancing partnerships among schools, businesses, and workforce development programs to drive economic progress.

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