CTLN Opinion+: Nandini Natarajan

Welcome to another episode of Connecticut Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and underrepresented communities face in the community.

This week we spoke with Nandini Natarajan, CEO of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), about the importance and status of affordable housing across the state. 

The CHFA has been dedicated to alleviating the shortage of affordable housing for low to moderate-income households throughout Connecticut since 1969, working alongside the governor and the Department of Housing. 

“We believe that all low and moderate-income families and residents should have a range of choices where they can live affordably in safe quality housing and environmentally stable and economically healthy communities,â€� Natarajan said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized all the different roles our homes can have in everyday life, Natarajan explained. People’s homes have become part-time remote classrooms, workspaces, and clinics for the past two years. 

“Home is not just four walls–it’s more than four walls, it’s more than a roof, it’s more than an investment,â€� she said. “It’s really our sanctuary, it’s our refuge.â€� 


  • Learn more about eligibility and sign-up for MyHomeCT at www.chfa.org/myhomect   
  • For more information on the Time To Own Assistance Program visit www.chfa.org/timetoown 
  • CHFA’s Call Center is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    • (877) 894 – 4111  
  • To view available job openings, check out www.chfa.org/careers 

ILLN Opinion+: Oscar Sanchez

Welcome to another episode of Illinois Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state.

This week we spoke with Oscar Sanchez, a local activist and the Community Planning Manager of the Southeast Environmental Task Force.

Sanchez said that recognizing his privilege motivated him to become active in his community. He is the son of immigrants and was raised on the Southeast Side of Chicago. He saw the advantages that he had over other members of his family, including being documented and being lighter complected.

His activism work started with advocating for undocumented people, but he says he has since taken a step back from this work and now acts as an ally in order to allow more space for people within the community.

“I’ve learned that the way you uplift voices of undocumented individuals is by allowing them to know that they themselves can be their own voices, they don’t need anyone else,â€� he said. 

Much of his work focuses on environmental racism, defined as a form of systemic racism in which laws or policies place the burden of environmental hazards in areas that directly impact people of color.

Sanchez said that the most polluted areas of the city overlap with areas where people experience the most respiratory issues, most often in Black and Brown neighborhoods. He called it a byproduct of segregation and housing policies formed in the 1930’s.

In order to proactively address and take action against these issues, Sanchez stressed the importance of recognizing the intersectionality between environmental issues and other major issues marginalized communities face, including labor rights and abortion rights, because there is a deep history of people’s concerns being neglected.

“For many years we’ve been silenced, or it hasn’t even been considered something to be ‘serious’ or of a priority.� He continued, “Yes it’s complex, but it’s intersectional. That means that if we move one part, it’ll move everything else and that’s why I always talk about [how] we have to do this together.�

The Southeast Side, which runs along the Indiana border, was once a booming industrial area. According to WTTW, the U.S. Steel Industry here once employed 40,000 people but when the industry collapsed during the ‘70’s and ‘80’s mass layoffs caused the economy to shift.

Sanchez was asked why he thought his community was overlooked by the media, politicians and other Chicagoans, in which he clarified that he felt the area was neglected and compared it to “vibrant� neighborhoods like Pilsen, which face gentrification.

“People look to be in a space that’s full of joy. The Southeast Side, we can be very honest- our community members are full of joy and they’re fighting that and looking to build that… but when you come outside our community you see all this scrap metal or you see all the different types of operations here you don’t want to be around that and we don’t either.�

Sanchez has been fighting against environmental racism and injustices in his neighborhood since he was in his early twenties. He participated in a hunger strike to prevent metal scrapper General Iron from moving their operation to the Southeast Side. He also co-founded the Southwest Youth Alliance in 2018 to amplify opportunities for young people in his neighborhood.

“Youth are our living future right now and if we empower them, we give them love and we embrace them, they’re the ones that are going to create the future you need,� said Sanchez.


Southeast Environmental Task Force: http://setaskforce.org
WTTW’s report on the Southeast Side: https://interactive.wttw.com/southside/far-southeast/southeast-side

Hunger strike against General Iron: https://southsideweekly.com/stories-and-lessons-from-inside-the-general-iron-hunger-strike/

Southeast Youth Alliance on IG: @southeastyouthalliance

Free water quality test kits: https://chicagowaterquality.org/filters

List of community resources: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/mayor/supp_info/office-of-new-americans/community-resources.html

Housing resources guide https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/mopd/provdrs/hous/svcs/Housing_Resources_Guide.html

Twitter and IG handles: oso_campeon 

Southeast Environmental Task Force

Twitter: SE_TaskForce

IG: se_taskforce

The post appeared first on ILLN.

NHLN Opinion+: Josie Pinto

Welcome to another episode of New Hampshire Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and underrepresented communities face in the state.

This week we spoke with Josie Pinto, the Co-founder and Executive Director of The Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire (RFFNH).

Pinto’s career in reproductive justice orginated with her sexual assault advocacy work while enrolled as a student at The University of Massachussetts Amherst. She said that while in college, she met and networked with people from within the reproductive justice community and became the president of her campus’ Planned Parenthood chapter.

When she moved to The Granite State, she noticed the difference in the amount of resources available for locals.

“I was pretty surprised to learn that New Hampshire didn’t have a single abortion fund and I knew that that had to be a huge need,� she said.

Through her previous work at Equality Health Center, Pinto understood that there was a stark demand for aid in helping people fund the abortion process. 

“Everytime that money came up, usually at least once a day there was someone who wasn’t sure how they were gonna pay for their aborton,� she explained.

In 2019 she decided to start The Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire to help in-need people in the state afford abortions. She says she spent about two years planning and fundraising before launching because it was challenging to raise money without the legitimacy of being an established or well-known non-profit organization.

In May 2022 Justice Samuel Alito’s majority draft opinion leaked, in which it was revealed that the Supreme Court voted to strike down Roe v. Wade.

“I don’t think I was as shocked as most people because we have been anticipating this moment and we’ve known that with every new Supreme Court justice that has kind of been the reason that they were seated on the court, especially during the Trump era,� Pinto said.

In the days immediately after this New Hampshire Latino News Opinion+ conversation, the draft became a reality when the Supreme Court formally announced its landmark decision to overturn Roe.

13 states immediately outlawed or placed harsher restrictions on the eligibility to abortion due to trigger laws, which were already in place in the event that Roe was ever overturned. 

Experts predict that people living in states with abortion bans will travel to neighboring states, like New Hampshire, to seek services. To help accommodate the influx of travelers, Pinto says RFFNH is expanding their focus.

“We’re looking at how we can scale up our funding to help cover those patients,â€� she said. She also mentioned the possibility of collaborating with organizations in other states to split costs for traveling people. 

“We’re expecting to pay for about half the cost of people coming from out of state in addition to the full cost for all New Hampshire residents, which is what we’ve been doing currently,� she explained.

The direct cost of performing abortion procedures is not the only barrier. Pinto says that affording rides to and from appointments is also essential because people who get abortions are medicated and unable to drive themselves.

Pinto discussed her feelings about the backlash she faces as a reproductive justice advocate, but she says that knowing that 70 percent of the country supports abortion helps balance out the negativity. 

“Even if the other side is loud, I know that they are the minority,� she said.


The Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire: https://www.reprofundnh.com
Pinto’s Boston Globe Article: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/06/01/magazine/with-roe-set-fall-we-must-pay-more-attention-new-hampshires-new-abortion-law/
Justice Alito’s Leaked Abortion Opinion: https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/read-justice-alito-initial-abortion-opinion-overturn-roe-v-wade-pdf-00029504
Information on Which States have Banned Abortion: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/24/abortion-state-laws-criminalization-roe/

Equality Health Center: https://equalityhc.org
The National Network of Abortion Fund: https://abortionfunds.org
Abortion on Demand: https://abortionondemand.org


@reprofund.ed (highchoolers)


All health centers offer translation, now funding translation costs 

RILN Opinion+: Amelia Rose

Welcome to another episode of Rhode Island Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the community.

The importance of cultivating green space was highlighted during the pandemic as residents struggled to find safe and clean outdoor spaces. “ A lot of our work is focused on communities that have high immigrant populations already. All the work that we do we try to do in multiple languages,� explained Amelia on the demographics of the communities they serve. 

This week we spoke with Amelia Rose, Executive Director of Groundwork Rhode Island.

Groundwork is a network of local organizations that focuses on environmental stewardship and economic opportunity for underserved communities. Groundwork is one of the fortunate companies to not be significantly impacted by the pandemic due to the accessibility of landscape and compost services with minor supply chain issues.

Partnerships is the main avenue that Rose is taking with Groundwork in order to build relationships and provide services with as many communities as possible. Involved community members have the opportunity to become immigrant ambassadors to engage with the community and get more people involved. 

Low-income communities face a variety of challenges such as climate, air quality, substandard living conditions, polluted facilities, etc. “We call these communities environmental justice communities or front line communities that are closer to these hazards,� explains Rose. Groundwork gives young students the tools to be educated on important topics through educational programs. 

In conversations about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Groundwork strives to open up conversations involving new voices to improve the principles of leadership of the organization. Opening up positions of leadership that do not require a college degree is essential to opening doors for those that cannot afford to go to college. This promotes inclusivity for college students and non college students. 

People can get involved through the planting of trees in Providence, Central Falls, Johnston, Cumberland, Lincoln and other cities across the state. Other services such as compost, watering, and adding green space will allow residents to get involved. 


Main website: https://groundworkri.org/

Facebook: facebook.com/GroundworkRI

Instagram: instagram.com/groundworkrhodeisland

MALN Opinion+: Vanessa Calderon-Rosado

Welcome to another episode of Massachusetts Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and underrepresented communities face.

This week we spoke with Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas En Acción.

“Inquilinos Boricuas En Acción or IBA was founded in 1968 by a group of Puerto Rican activists that fought for their rights to stay in the neighborhood of the South End in Boston. They basically stopped the city bulldozers, and the displacement threats that they faced when the city was planning to do a whole process of urban renewal in the South End.

This group of Puerto Rican activists created Inquilinos Boricuas En Acción to become the community development organization that would redevelop and revitalize the neighborhood and create secure affordable housing.

Almost 55 years later IBA continues the legacy of their founders by creating, developing, and reserving affordable housing in the South End and across Boston.

IBA also offers an assortment of programs to support young people such as bi-lingual preschool programs, financial empowerment initiatives, youth development projects, and arts programs. This assortment of programs combined with their work to secure affordable housing makes IBA a driving force in modern community development. 

Coming up this Saturday July 16th, 2022 IBA’s Festival Betances returns to Plaza Betances here in Boston after a multi-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They have a full day planned of exciting activities for everyone. This year’s theme is ¡De Bomba a Reggaetón! They’ll be celebrating and enjoying an assortment of bands and artists. There will also be plenty of food, arts and crafts, a parade, and their annual greased pole climbing competition. Vanessa shared that the competition is one of the most exciting parts of the festival, “People gather around that greased pole. Its so exciting to see the power, the grit, and the determination of these teams to keep climbing the pole until someone finally grabs the flag on top of it. It’s truly very exciting.â€�

IBA hopes that anyone and everyone in the Boston community will come out this Saturday and join them in celebrating the rich history and culture they have fostered right here in the city’s South End.

For more information about IBA, and The Festival Betances be sure to watch this weeks full episode of Massachusetts Latino News Opinion+.


https://ibaboston.org/ (IBA Main Website) 

https://ibaboston.org/events/festival-betances (Festival Betances Info)

Facebook: @IBAboston

Twitter: @IBA_Boston

LinkedIn: @IBA – Inquilinos Boricuas en AcciónInstagram: @ibaboston

Rocha Selected as Center for Health Journalism 2022 National Fellow 

The USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism announced this month it had selected 26 journalists to participate in its 2022 National Fellowship to investigate and explore challenges impacting child, youth and family health and well-being in the United States. Annabel Rocha, Editor for Latino News Network – Midwest and Writer for Illinois Latino News (ILLN) is among them.

The competitive program includes a five-day training that provides insights into how health and child, youth and family well-being is shaped by community conditions, systemic racism and opportunity. Through reporting stipends and months of expert mentoring, the Center for Health Journalism supports Fellows as they produce investigative and explanatory projects on challenges impacting child, youth and family wellness. 

For her project, Rocha will be exploring Period Poverty. Period Poverty or Menstrual Poverty is defined as the lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities, and/or waste management. This social problem primarily affects houseless people, low-income people, and Black and Brown communities.  Two-thirds of low-income women in the U.S.could not afford period products, according to a 209 survey of low-income women in a large U.S. city.

“I thank the CHJ and ILLN for supporting my vision on this project because I know discussions like this can make people uncomfortable,â€� said Rocha. “That’s exactly why this topic needs to be covered.â€�

“As the Center’s director, I’m proud to welcome this group of reporters to Los Angeles and look forward to partnering with them in the months to come as they produce powerful stories on health equity and systemic disparities, reporting that will have an impact in their communities,� said Michelle Levander, editor and founding director, Center for Health Journalism.

“In an era of pervasive misinformation, trusted reporters rooted in the communities they cover and laser-focused on telling stories about health inequities are more critical than ever,� said Monica Beltran, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We need a strong ecosystem of journalists who represent the communities they report on to uncover health disparities, explore why they exist and shed light on solutions,� she added.

The 2022 National Fellowship is generously funded by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The National Fellowship also receives support from The California Endowment and the Internet Brands/WebMD Impact Fund, an initiative of the Social Impact Fund.

A native Chicagoan, Rocha joined Illinois Latino News as its first writer/reporter when it launched last October. She was named Editor last month. Rocha has helped lead the Democracy SOS and Advancing Democracy, solutions journalism initiatives for LNN, thanks to grants by the Solutions Journalism Network and Hearken.

“Grants like the Center for Health Journalism, provides dedicated journalists like Annabel, and independent newsrooms like LNN, the resources necessary to produce authentic stories that resonate with communities often invisible in the coverage of mainstream media,� said Hugo Balta, Owner and Publisher of LNN.

“I am so happy to have this opportunity, not only for myself and my career, but for the stories that will be told through this reporting,� said Rocha of being included as a CHJ Fellow. “People of color are most directly impacted by period poverty but their voices are heard the least. The goal is to reclaim the narrative and uplift Latinx voices as we normalize menstruation and menstrual poverty together.�

Publisher’s Notes: This story is in part an aggregate from Center for Health Journalism announces 2022 National Fellows.

The post Rocha Selected as Center for Health Journalism 2022 National Fellow  appeared first on ILLN.

Unemployment Rates Low but Education, Healthcare Still Facing Worker Shortage

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor report for May 2022 shows New Hampshire’s unemployment rate was 2.1 percent, ranking fourth in the nation with the lowest unemployment rate. Yet, some industries are still struggling to staff their businesses.

Montessori Schoolhouse of Cheshire County, a preschool in Keene that has operated for 33 years, is experiencing a staffing shortage that is threatening their ability to care for their students.

School officials say they need two lead teachers, four assistant teachers, an administrative director, an office assistant and four board members. In a small school like Montessori these eight positions make a difference in the number of children they’re able to serve and the shortage has caused more families to be left on the waiting list for childcare.

“If we’re not able to retain and hire the staffing we need, we are faced with the decision to permanently close which is a devastating thought for everybody in our community,� Katie Kurowski, co-president of the board of directors, said in an email to the Sentinel Friday.

Because low pay was a common factor in people quitting their jobs, the average weekly wage is increasing. To compete, the school has raised tuition with hopes of using higher pay rates to attract employees. The 2022-2023 school year tuition increased by 6 percent.

The healthcare industry is also experiencing continued staffing shortages.

In December 2021 NHPR reported that New Hampshire’s largest healthcare system, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, advertised 1,129 job openings at once, including 100 physician vacancies.  

Leaders across the state have joined forces to create a plan to address this issue. Giving Care: A Strategic Plan to Expand and Support New Hampshire’s Health Care Workforce offers 107 short-term and long-term suggestions to solve the problem, including implementing wellness programs to improve employee retention. Endowment for Health and the Community Health Institute partnered to fund and lead the project.

“In this state, we address problems often in very siloed ways,� Kim Firth, Program Director at the Endowment for Health, told The New Hampshire Bulletin. “We want this to be action oriented. We don’t want this to be a plan that sits on a shelf. We actually need to work together to implement it.�

The plan’s suggestions are categorized into four sections– recruiting and retaining healthcare workers, rethinking policies that stymie workforce development, collecting and using data to drive decisions, and creating a public or private group to move the plan forward. 

The organizations say that many aspects of the plan can be utilized in any industry, not just healthcare, and with education and healthcare so crucial to the success of the state, it is important to decrease the shortages now.


Cover photo: Ernie Journeys for Unsplash

National Teacher Shortage Highlights Need for Bilingual Teachers and Dual Literacy in Illinois Classrooms

In the midst of a nationwide teacher shortage plaguing the country, studies show that the need for educators in Illinois is worse than ever. For English Learners (ELs) the stakes are especially high as these students deal with a language barrier in which their parents may not be able to assist with and a shortage of adults qualified to teach them.

“Because this is one of the fastest growing groups of children in the state, if Illinois is going to be successful, we need this group of children to be successful,� said Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro, Director of Education Policy and Research at Latino Policy Forum.

The Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools found that in 2021 there were 2,040 open positions in Illinois school districts alone. The need for bilingual teachers is especially highlighted as the number of ELs in Illinois grows and the demand for educators certified to teach them continues to not be met.

In March 2022 the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced a $4 million grant intended to aid current teachers in receiving the credentials required to teach bilingual classrooms in Illinois. The funding is allocated from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief federal pandemic money.

The ISBE press release states that in October 2021 there were 98 vacancies for bilingual classroom teachers throughout Illinois.

Certain credentials are required to teach English Learners. Many of these bilingual teachers work with an Educator License with Stipulations with a Transitional Bilingual Education endorsement (ELS-TBE), which is provisional. The ELS-TBE is valid for five years, but non-renewable. In order to continue teaching, teachers must receive a Professional Educator License (PEL).

The grant can be used by those ELS-TBE holding educators who would like to pursue the Professional Educator License, as well as by teachers who already earned a PEL but are seeking an English as a Second Language (ESL) or Bilingual endorsement. The intention is to fund the bilingual teacher pipeline by ensuring teachers can remain eligible for these positions after the five year period, and by encouraging fully licensed teachers to take on the additional language licensure. 

This grant is a huge win for the Latino Policy Forum, a statewide advocacy organization that encourages and fosters Latino voice and representation. Their education department has long been advocating to ISBE for this allocation of funds towards bilingual teachers.

“Everyone has known that the bilingual teacher shortage is one of the most severe of all the teacher shortages and so I think the administration was really open to ideas,� said Vonderlack-Navarro.

The 2019-2020 school year numbers reported by ISBE show that there were 261,454 EL students enrolled in Illinois, with 594 school districts implementing some form of Transitional Bilingual Education program (TBE). 72 percent of these students speak Spanish and 74 percent of them are Hispanic or Latino.

“It is my passion that we no longer view these kids through a deficit lens, but we see that language and culture are incredible assets to learning and given this research from the University of Chicago, when these kids are supported over the long-term with specialized teachers who know how to meet their needs, they will do well. They should be celebrated, instead of seen as a burden,� she said.

The way that these students are served can look differently depending on the type of program implemented in a school.

Vonderlack-Navarro feels that one of the most effective ways to cater to EL students is through the dual language model in which students receive core instruction in both English and Spanish. 

“I think it’s critical because research shows that English Learners’ services work if a teacher is skilled with knowledge on how to build the home language while also building English, children over the long term will be more successful,â€� she said. 

Although dual language makes up less than 14 percent of EL instructional design in the state, many educators vouch for the effectiveness of this method for their students as it builds biliteracy, rather than focusing solely on encouraging English skills. In the Elgin area U-46 District, only the dual language model is implemented across 32 of their schools.  

Griselda Pirtle, the Director of English Language Learners at School District U-46 said, “We choose the dual language model because research suggests that that is the best model that serves our students. Especially our current student population, where 90 percent of our English Language Learners are actually born here in the United States. So they’re coming up from birth in bilingual environments and so dual language programs allow the students to access all of the languages that they have.â€� 

“If we put them in English only environments or English only classrooms, it’s like we’re tying one hand behind their back. We’re not allowing them to access both of the languages that they have, and really that’s the beauty of dual language models, is that not only are you teaching both, but you’re also maintaining both languages. And again, that then requires a need for highly-qualified bilingual teachers,� she continued.

Only 28 percent of ELs in Illinois are enrolled in Chicago Public Schools, with 26 percent enrolled in Cook County, outside of CPS, and 33 percent in DuPage, Kane, Will and Lake counties. With this breakdown, Vonderlack-Navarro says that bilingual teachers are particularly needed in the suburbs.

“I think what you have in rural areas is there’s just a general teacher shortage and say you’re in a pocket, that maybe doesn’t look like a high number of ESLs, but there’s a decent concentration. There are certain areas that might have a meat packing plant or for various reasons, certain industries, they’ll have a population of ELs and no one will have the grounding to serve them at all in the district,â€� Vonderlack-Navarro said.

School districts across the country have gotten creative in their attempts to fill vacant bilingual teacher positions. In Connecticut, Hartford Public Schools started The Paso a Paso Puerto Rico Recruitment Program which relocates Spanish-speaking educators directly from Puerto Rico into full-time roles at their schools. In Georgia, Gwinnett County Public Schools offered a $4,000 bonus incentive to educators new to their district who either already held or could gain certification in Spanish, French, Korean, Vietnamese or Mandarin Chinese.

Pirtle says that the market for bilingual teachers is extremely competitive because the role is in such high demand.

“I think sometimes it’s not understood all the work that goes into recruiting and retaining dual language teachers. It is very difficult, again, because they can write their ticket,� she said.

In addition to recruiting bilingual teachers, districts have also found it challenging to retain them. Some often overlooked aspects of the role are the expectation to translate information to parents, or between parents and non-Spanish speaking administrators, as well as creating coursework that may not be readily available in all programs. It is additional work that they are not compensated for.

A small 2019 study by Cathy Amanti of Georgia State University found that bilingual teachers were not given the materials needed to teach in the other language, and would use personal time to translate the material provided in English, or create original material. Two of the six teachers included in the study left once the school year ended, with one leaving teaching altogether and the other leaving to a school that did not offer a dual language program.

“I wish I could tell teachers the grass isn’t always greener, because the reality is no matter what district you’re in, it is a tough job being a dual language teacher… It’s still up-and-coming, the field is still evolving and growing and you’re constantly learning new things, new strategies, etcetera,� Pirtle said. “So I think sometimes because that could become so much, dual teachers are like oh maybe in that district it’s better, or maybe in that district it’ll be easier or they have more this or they have more that and I’m just like no.�

She also says that it can be hard to keep an updated number of how many teachers are needed, or will be needed for the upcoming school year, because it is a moving target with aspects like retirement, maternity leave and resignation factoring into job vacancies.

While the battle towards employing and retaining more bilingual teachers in Illinois continues, at U-46 there is generally a positive outlook on the future of this issue.

“We’re very proud of the dual language program here at U-46 and it’s a great opportunity for our students and so we just need to find those teachers. There’s a shortage now, so on top of everything these types of things, programs and grants, can help us,� said Mireya Perez, Director of Human Resources at U-46.

Pirtle agrees, saying “I truly believe we are gonna see the day where hopefully, through having dual language programs, essentially we’re growing these bilingual students to potentially, hopefully, be teachers one day, or social workers that serve in our school.�

The post National Teacher Shortage Highlights Need for Bilingual Teachers and Dual Literacy in Illinois Classrooms appeared first on ILLN.

Supreme Court EPA Ruling Will Disproportionately Impact Vulnerable Communities

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency last Thursday, restricting the agency’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country as climate change continues to disproportionately impact low-income communities and residents of color. 

Moving forward, the EPA will need explicit permission from Congress to enforce such regulations. The 6-to-3 decision has also sparked concerns nationwide that the ruling might affect the regulatory efforts of similar federal agencies, according to GBH. 

“The consequences of this decision will ripple across the entire federal government, from the regulation of food and drugs to our nation’s health care system, all of which will put American lives at risk,â€� said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. 

Research experts and environmental advocates continue to study the variety of ways climate change continues to affect vulnerable communities throughout the country. 

“Disasters can have the effect of widening existing inequalities,� said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior economist at the Office of Research at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Black residents who experience extreme weather encountered financial issues three times the rate of white people while Latino residents faced financial problems more than twice the rate of white people, according to a nationwide survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  

“Facing extreme weather has had a substantial impact on millions of Americans, who have had serious property damage, health, and financial consequences,” said Professor Robert J. Blendon of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Publisher’s Notes: This story is an aggregate from GBH.

Cover Photo: Rick Bowmer / AP

CT Public Library Initiative Seeks to Close Local Digital Divide

Connecticut Public Libraries seek to address the growing digital divide between the state’s diverse communities through its CT Libraries & Partners for Digital Equity initiative, which participated in a series of Juneteenth events last month. 

The CT Libraries & Partners for Digital Equity Coalition oversees the new initiative that aims to provide computers, affordable high-speed broadband, and community digital navigators to local communities. Public Library staff and other community members formed the Coalition in January 2020 as a team dedicated to closing the drastic gap in digital access across Connecticut.  

“There are still families at home who don’t have internet access, who do not have a device, and who do not know how to use it,â€� said Dawn LaValle, Director of the Division of Library Development for the CT State Library. “So, the pandemic really shined a light on this problem and we’re just realizing the expanse of it.â€� 

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly amplified the lack of digital access among local BIPOC communities, specifically among Black and Latino households. LaValle explained that CT Public Libraries have been aware of a digital gap between CT’s diverse communities but most did not recognize the gap’s full extent until 2020. 

About 31 percent of Black residents don’t have computer access at home, while 34 percent of Black residents and 35 percent of Latinx residents lack wireline broadband at home, according to a 2020 Digital Divide in CT report. Data also showed that senior citizens, low-income households, and residents with disabilities are disproportionately affected by digital inequity. 

The Digital Equity Coalition saw Juneteeth as an opportunity to discuss the importance of digital equity among local Black communities. National reports have shown that a lack of internet access strongly correlates with COVID-19 death rates.   

“Over the last few years, researchers have started to see internet access, and in particular high-speed broadband, as a critical component of health — something vital for connecting people not only with health care, but also with food, housing, education, and income, all of which are considered social determinants of health,� according to Vox.

In 2020, state-wide efforts immediately focused on the digital needs of in-need youth to assist in providing the tools necessary for remote education. 

“Helping public libraries reach out to residents who have faced discrimination and need support to join the ranks of the digitally included is central to our mission,â€� LaValle said. 

Four CT Public Libraries are participating in the Digital Navigation Pilot Project, a program that trains members of the community to help residents set up affordable broadband internet, obtain electronic devices, and learn a variety of digital skills.

The East Hartford, Hamden, and Hartford locations, along with the Ferguson Library in Stanford have employed four navigators in each library.

“Basically, as digital navigators, we meet with clients and we work with them to achieve a goal,â€� said Aujahdai Ambrose, a digital navigator for the East Hartford Public Library. 

LaValle explained that navigators’ strong interpersonal skills have been crucial to the program’s success.

“It’s having someone with that empathy, that patience, but also the skills to be able to teach this…and make that connection with a person who’s never used a computer before,â€� LaValle said.  

Ambrose mentioned the value of having several bilingual navigators and libraries on staff. 

“We’re making a move so that we can be able to accommodate everybody,â€� Ambrose said. “We have a language line and we also have a Spanish speaker so that clients…can still get connected with our program…even if they don’t speak English.â€� 

Access to Broadband

Digital navigators have been most busy helping residents connect with the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), Ambrose said. The ACP offers significant broadband discounts and one-time device discounts to eligible households, according to the Federal Communications Commission. 

Electronic Devices

Each library in the pilot program decided how much of their budget to allocate to devices; the East Hartford Library obtained roughly 100 devices—Chromebooks and Microsoft Surface Go Tablets—to give out to residents, according to Ambrose. 

Digital Skills 

Navigators have been trained to teach residents a wide variety of digital basics from learning to typing to navigating Microsoft software, but they aren’t the only ones picking up new skills. Ambrose has been learning to read Braille with a client who’s visually impaired so they can navigate their devices with more ease.  

“There’s one client…I’ve had them for a while because we’ve done so many things from filling out applications to learning zoom to organizing her email, we’ve done it [all],� Ambrose said. “So learning Braille is our last stretch.�

The Ferguson Library has already begun adjusting its upcoming budget to continue working with its navigators because of the pilot program’s early success, according to Ambrose.

“We want our community to know that there are resources, please come in and take advantage of it,â€� Ambrose said. “Our Black [communities] and [other] communities of color are the communities that are really being affected by digital inequity and that’s why we’re here to support them.â€�   

CT Libraries & Partners for Digital Equity meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 2 p.m., learn more at www.sites.google.com/view/ctlibrariespartnersdigequity/ 

Publisher’s Notes: CTLN is a proud partner of the Connecticut State Public Libraries.