MCALLEN, RGV – The labor representative on the Texas Workforce Commission, says he supports Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez’s efforts to reduce poverty.

Julian Alvarez will be in the Rio Grande Valley later this week to announce a grant to help local workforce development councils train individuals who have been incarcerated, many of whom came from a life of poverty.

Cortez has made reducing the Hidalgo County’s poverty rate one of his top four priorities. “The poverty rate in Hidalgo County is published at 29.5 percent. That is close to twice the rate for the entire State of Texas 17 percent, and more than double the U.S. poverty rate of 14 percent,” Cortez wrote, in a recent guest column.

Alvarez gave his views in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian while attending FIRST RGV’s robotics season kickoff.

“The Rio Grande Valley has received a grant, Frank Almaraz, and Pat Hobbs, that would support those individuals that have been incarcerated or are currently incarcerated, specifically those individuals with felony convictions. Those individuals with felony convictions, we are providing them with training,” Alvarez said.

Francisco “Frank” Almaraz is executive director of Workforce Solutions in Hidalgo County. Pat Hobbs is executive director of Workforce Solutions Cameron.

“I have been reading Richard Cortez’s report on trying to get people out of poverty. One of the things he and I have discussed is that many of the individuals in South Texas, his data shows that 38 percent of the individuals in the region do not possess a GED or a high school diploma,” Alvarez said.

“Our hope is to help with that, by providing these individuals with felony convictions, many of them who are incarcerated and do not possess a GED or a high school diploma… we want to provide them with a credential that allows them to earn not only gainful employment but also a career path.”

Editor’s Note: TWC recently wrote about Alvarez visiting Lockhart Correctional Facility. He was there as the main commencement speaker at a graduation ceremony for female inmates who have benefited from a new education program involving TWC. Click here to read the article.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Texas Workforce Commissioner Julian Alvarez speaking at FIRST RGV’s season kickoff event at McAllen High School.