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"The Latino Coalition for Families,"

by Denise Rivera Portis March/April 2002 issue of Poverty & Race

When the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), our system changed to a “work first” approach. While it’s true that the reform, aided by a booming economy, succeeded in transitioning many recipients into the workforce, most have not been transitioned into jobs that pay a livable wage. They have been relegated to the status of the “working poor.”

Latinos, especially, have lagged behind most in leaving the rolls. There have been various contributing factors, including language and education barriers, geographic location and immigration status. Latinos also are behind in median income and have a higher unemployment rate. According to the 2000 Census, the Latino poverty rate was 21.2%, as compared to 7.5% for whites and the overall population rate of 11.3%.

All families in need of assistance should have the same access to the opportunities provided to gain self-sufficiency and escape poverty. At this time, it is painfully obvious that many Latinos do not.

To ensure that a Latino voice is heard, national organizations have come together to form the Latino Coalition for Families (LCF) – originally named the Hispanic Welfare Coalition. The National Puerto Rican Coalition and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund are this year’s Coalition co-chairs. Other organizations represented are AFL-CIO, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support [see Deepak Bhargava’s PRRAC Director’s Report on page 7], National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, National Council of La Raza, National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Organization, National Puerto Rican Forum, PRRAC and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Creating an agenda with recommendations to present to Congress and the Administration for the 2002 TANF reauthorization process has been the Coalition’s main focus. LCF is calling on Congress to correct the disparities in benefits, training and work supports, in order to improve the quality of life and the attainment of self-sufficiency for Latino families.

Some of the main agenda items are:
  • Providing access for immigrants. Despite their economic contributions, many legal immigrant families have been denied access to our national safety net supported by their own tax dollars under welfare reform.
  • Overcoming language barriers. In order to attain the “work first” objective, training is a necessity. For those who do not speak English, this objective was lacking. Information needed to benefit from programs was not multilingual; therefore, many were unaware of their existence.
  • Addressing disparities in Puerto Rico. Although there was a dramatic reduction in the welfare rolls in P.R., there is little evidence that these former recipients were transitioned into self-sufficiency. Puerto Rico has a poverty rate of nearly 60%, according to the Census Bureau, the highest rate in the nation. However, P.R. does not receive the same resources or opportunities provided to other TANF recipients.

The Coalition is working for and hoping that the 2002 TANF reauthorization will provide the opportunities and tools to Latino recipients to steer them towards self-sufficiency. They believe that TANF must focus on poverty reduction through permanent employment that provides a livable wage. For many Latinos, this also means providing work supports (training, education, etc.) as they transition off the rolls. The agenda outlines recommendations for accomplishing these goals.


For more information or copies of the agenda please contact Denise Rivera Portis 202/387-9887, or Jennie Torres Lewis (NPRC) at


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