By Angela Millan-Epstein
For Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Latinos are no different; they are Americans and must be treated as such. The Connecticut Senator rejects any stereotypes, and in his view improving the lives and opportunities of Latinos “goes beyond politics and it is in the self interest of the country.” He adds: “We need to keep faith with the promises we made for immigration reform, for providing jobs and meeting other needs of the community.”
The senior senator from Connecticut agrees that Latinos are in many instances lagging behind “in the recognition and in the economic well being they deserve.” He is currently supporting and introducing bills that will help millions get access to better education, health or capital for businesses and entrepreneurship.
In the case of the Immigration Reform that he strongly supports, Blumenthal considers that it has to be responsive and make sure that individual rights are respected. He does work, in his Connecticut office, on immigration cases for people whose families are in limbo: “family reunification is a priority, we need to keep families together.”
In addition to providing a path to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented people, that in his opinion “has to happen,” Blumenthal also thinks the system must be improved and streamlined, making it less expensive for people to go through the process.
“People think about the Immigration Reform solely in terms of a path to citizenship but they do not think of the highly skilled workers, many who are Latino, who are chained to their employers,” he say. He adds: “those workers have to be freed and move from their current employers” when they choose to do so.
Education must be cheaper and accessible
According to Blumenthal, the next decade is critical for Latinos and the country needs to invest resources in young people. “The investment has to be in early education, high school and superior education has to be provided for Latinos.”
A champion of consumer protection and labor rights during his (unprecedented) five terms as Connecticut’s attorney general, Blumenthal believes the low-skilled workforce needs to be protected and given the opportunity of education and skills: “training is vital for those in manufacturing, as traditional lifting and moving was replaced by computing technologies.”
Blumenthal is also supportive of magnet, charter and vocational schools. He believes that getting young Latinos interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) should start at early age. “We need more opportunities to be available.”
However, it is in the student debt reduction where the aenator thinks the country must make a radical decision, “The country needs to enable students to earn that way or serve that way out of that debt.” He proposes a National Service as a means to benefit in large numbers, and to obtain assistance to cut the cost of higher education.
Current student debt is estimated at over a trillion dollars, and it is crippling students financially preventing them from buying a home or forming a family: “This debt is constraining the outlook for many people, Colleges must reduce their cost for higher education, and there must be more financial aid for students.”
Health prevention and cost reduction of Hospital Acquired Infections
The former attorney general, whose fights against special interest groups like tobacco and insurance assured critical health care coverage and lower pharmaceutical drug prices, believes preventive health and health cost reduction is of great importance to the well being of the nation.
Consequently, he’s done a lot of work in the Senate to identify ways to deliver health, reducing costs while increasing quality. As prevention is a part of better health care delivery reform, the senator believes in creating incentives for people to stop smoking, as well as to making sure children visit doctors regularly, or people follow good nutrition and exercise habits.
Reduction of cost in health can be achieved: “if there were fewer mistakes in hospitals and fewer Health Acquired Infections (HAI.)” HAI has been considered one of the biggest problems of the industry not only in the US but worldwide: “a lot of times people go to hospitals and get sick while they are there.” These hospital acquired infections dramatically increase cost to the system, and additional pain and some times death to the patients.
The exorbitant costs ofhospital acquired infections s also prevent the government from allocating money to other pressing issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall annual direct medical costs of HAI to U.S. hospitals ranges from $28.4 to $33.8 billion, and HAIs are the cause of death of about 100 thousand people annually. Pretty much anyone who is hospitalized for any kind of treatment or surgery can get a hospital infection if the hospital does not take the proper hygiene protocols, and measures to prevent the infections.
Support of Latino Entrepreneurs
On the subject entrepreneurship, the senator thinks the Small Business Administration could do more to help Latinos, and the banks should also do more for Latinos, as “they have failed to reach out to Latinos businesses.”
The senator encourages banks to hire more Latinos and he sees the need to promote them: “by putting them in leadership positions they can reach out to Latino businesses, and extend more loans making capital accessible.”
Blumenthal also encourages banks to change their culture toward Latinos. He has worked with the major banks of Connecticut to get them more interested in the Latino business community, and to be more forthcoming: “so these businesses can grow their customer base if they had more loans, capital and resources.”
As a result, some of these banks signed up to be in a working committee with SAMA, the Spanish American Merchants Association, and with the SBA, to identify where they could work with Spanish business owners. SAMA is already extending loans and providing training and resources to businesses in the communities it operates throughout the state.
Changing the culture, and hiring more Latinos would be not only beneficial for the community but also for the banks themselves. With a buying power of over a trillion dollars, and growing, today’s business can’t ignore the Latino community any longer. Doing so will mean leaving money behind.
Angela Millan Epstein writes for publications in the Americas, she is a former Univision Reporter, and ESPN and NBC’s Canal de Noticias News Anchor. She worked in IT for ScreamingMedia, and in Public Relations for IBM and the National Congress of her native Colombia. She consults for businesses and media.