EDINBURG, Texas – Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez provided some sobering statistics about his county in a presentation to a group of community leaders concerned about poverty.

The community leaders were invited to attend the first official meeting of Cortez’s Prosperity Task Force. The meeting was held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

The mission statement of the task force is: “To provide a strong safety net for our residents most in need and to move a percentage of our low-income residents out of poverty.”

Here are the statistics Cortez provided in his powering presentation:

  • * Hidalgo County’s poverty rate is close to 40 percent based on local school district statistics.
  • * The current Hidalgo County population is closer to one million people, not the 800,000 set instead by the U.S. Census.
  • * That means that up to 400,000 people in Hidalgo County live in poverty.

A later slide showed a different percentage of Hidalgo County residents living in poverty. These statistics, shown by Cortez, came from the 2020 U.S. Census:

  • * 11.4 percent of Americans live in poverty.
  • * 13.7 percent of Texans live in poverty.
  • * 29.7 percent of Hidalgo County residents live in poverty.

“There are a lot of good things we can say about ourselves but let’s start with some negatives,” Cortez told the audience. He then cited information he had received from Frank Almaraz, CEO of Workforce Solutions in Hidalgo County.  

“Twenty seven percent of our children were food insecure in 2018. And that grew to an astonishing 37 percent in 2020. When you compare ourselves to the rest of the country and the state of Texas, we are way behind. Way behind.”

Here is an exclusive video interview The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service obtained with Judge Cortez at the conclusion of the task force meeting: