Dear members and guests, I want to begin by thanking my good friend, president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cynthia Sakulenski for inviting me to this year’s legislative report card luncheon.
 
Due to my duties in Washington, D.C., I am not able to attend today’s luncheon.

I have prepared responses to the three questions presented to me by the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. First, I will answer the question that deals with the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act and what I foresee for the people of the Rio Grande Valley when it comes to the healthcare legislation.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is already helping 10.2 million Americans with quality health insurance at reasonable prices, and the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling stresses the law is here to stay. I encourage everyone to start preparing for the next healthcare marketplace open enrollment season.  

This year, you may shop for new health insurance plans starting November 1, 2015 with coverage starting January 1, 2016. The deadline for open enrollment ends on January 31, 2016, so it is important for those seeking new benefits to be ready.

As many of you may know, the state of Texas has declined to receive federal assistance to expand the Medicaid program. Unfortunately, some citizens of the Rio Grande Valley do not qualify for subsidies or discounts on their monthly health insurance payments. I hope that the state will reconsider this decision so that our underserved population can benefit from ACA and have greater access to quality affordable insurance.  

If your income or life situation prevents you from affording insurance, I urge you to complete a hardship exemption waiver to protect yourself from being penalized for not having insurance.

If you need help, you may to contact the health insurance marketplace on their website, or you may also reach out to Enroll RGV, a coalition of local non-profits, for in-person assistance.

Another question posed to me concerns Pell grants. What lies in store for Pell grants when it comes to congressional legislation? The next question involves the future of Pell grants. The concern is, will Pell grants, that help so many of our students afford college, be taken off of the table in Congress.

In April of this year I introduced numerous bills to protect and expand the Pell Grant program, which makes college more affordable and accessible for low-income families and those who need it the most.   

I do not see Pell grants taken off the table as this issue affects millions of our students. In 2010, the year-around Pell grant benefited over one million college students across the county. With Latino students for the first time enrolling in college at a higher rate than other ethnicities, this issue is non-negotiable.

We are currently working with the Republicans to re-introduce a Pell Grant bill similar to what my colleagues and I introduced to reinstate access to year-round Pell grants as well as looking at other bills that will provide our students equal opportunities to achieve college access.

Lastly, you ask about infrastructure and job-creation. Specifically what plans I have for the future regarding this issue and what you as a chamber can do to help push this agenda.

My plan is to always continue to push for the completion of I-69. I believe this is crucial to our future growth and we are growing. The merger of our local universities into the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will put our region on the map when it comes to medical education and research and international trade.

The way infrastructure funding is made available is through Congress. As a chamber you and your supporters are encouraged to contact those members of Congress who refuse to fund infrastructure projects to start doing so. Change their minds and we will be on our way to the future.

No need to call my office, as I am already on board.

With that, I thank each and every one of you for your time. I hope to see you all soon.

Editor’s Note: The above remarks were penned by Congressman Rubén Hinojosa for the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Report Card luncheon, held at the Club of Cimarron in Mission on Wednesday, July 15. Hinojosa could not attend and the remarks were not available to be read aloud at the event. We thought it would be a good idea to make them available to the general public.