EDINBURG, Texas – Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez has set up a “prosperity task force” to fight poverty in the county.

Cortez told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service that the task force is needed because of his county’s demographics.

“As you know, we have a disproportionate percentage of people in poverty in Hidalgo County when you compare it to the percentage of the United States as a whole or the percentage of Texas as a whole,” Cortez said.

“So, I created a task force for dealing with the complex issue of poverty. We call it the prosperity task force (and its jobs is) to look into the complex issues of poverty And that’s coming along very well. We’re meeting and coming up with a strategic plan.”

Cortez said poverty would be a top issue for his administration when he was first elected county judge. Many projects had to be put on hold, however, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I want to make sure that our people are well served,” Cortez said in his interview. He said the new task force has three specific goals.

“One is how do we best serve the people that need the most help here in Hidalgo County? How can how can we best serve them? We want to provide financial literacy programs for them. We want to provide healthy diet programs. We suffer from obesity and diabetes. We think that informing them and educating them on better diets is going to help us in the long term,” Cortez said.

“Then, we want to create human capital. We want to be able to afford and offer vocational training or higher education for those people that want to pursue those things. We want to we want to create an easier vehicle for them to do that and remove the obstacles that’s keeping them from trying to gain that human capital.”

The third goal is to engage with local businesses and target businesses that could move to the county, in order to provide more jobs. 

“The third aspect and this is where the Alex Meades, the CoSteps, the Valley Partnerships, and the other EDCs of the area…. the third aspect is how do we expand the capacity of our employers today to employ more? So, in other words, if you are here already, how do we increase your capacity? And two, if you are not here, who do we want, where are you and how do we go get you to come down here? So that as we train people they will have a job to go to once they’re trained.”

Here is an audio recording of the interview:

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