If you read the Daily News online on Saturday or Sunday, you may have seen an op-ed of mine opposing Gov. Hochul’s proposed ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol. You may have been surprised by the stance taken in that op-ed. In fact, no one was more surprised than me. That’s because I didn’t write a word of it. It seems the pro-tobacco lobby and its PR firms have stooped to new lows. Who knew that was possible? —by falsely attributing support for his toxic policies to the very people who are most opposed to them.
Let me be clear, as President and CEO of the Hispanic Federation, I have been unequivocal in supporting the Governor’s plan to ban flavored tobacco products. Just last month, I joined dozens of other organizations in asking the state Senate and Assembly to support their proposal.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. As research shows, flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, are marketing tools designed to hook a new generation of smokers, especially communities of color. The Governor understands this, and her proposal is the most far-reaching attempt to prevent the industry from addicting our youth to nicotine in our state’s history. Hochul’s anti-tobacco effort is just one part of his proposed fiscal year 2024 executive budget that will help build stronger, healthier Latino communities throughout New York State.
Earlier this month, I led a group of Hispanic Federation member agencies to meet face-to-face with the Governor so she could hear directly from the organizations that are on the front lines of tackling the most pressing issues facing communities. latinas. You heard about the impact of the housing crisis on our communities, including the reality that too many of our families are being priced out of their neighborhoods, forced to live in small apartments, and unable to find safe, quality, affordable housing.
These challenges are one reason we support New York’s Housing Compact, the Governor’s plan to build more than 800,000 housing units in the state over the next decade. In a state where more than half of Latino households are rent burdened, the Governor’s plan would address exclusionary zoning housing policies that drive Latino families out of the city, allowing members of our community to live and raise their families where they grew up. All of this will strengthen communities where housing costs have been a drag on economic growth.
At the same meeting, Hochul heard from our member agencies about the need to invest more in mental health services for our children. The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Latino communities has resulted in increased reports of depression, anxiety and stress. She spoke with us about the rising suicide rates among young Latinas and heard about the incredible work our member agencies have been doing to stem the tide of self-harm. Together we agreed that the $30 million the Governor has allocated in this year’s budget to expand mental health services in our schools will be a lifeline for thousands of children who are struggling right now.
Finally, we discussed the importance of helping students recover from the significant learning loss that has occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. we know of school-level data obtained by students in Math and English Language Arts have dropped significantly and that students need quality classroom teachers to help them get back on track. This is especially true for the thousands of students who are not native English speakers. For them, having a teacher who is bilingual and bicultural can make the difference between staying in school or dropping out; between academic success and failure.
Last year, the Hochul administration launched the Empire State Teacher Residency Program to grow the pipeline of qualified multilingual teachers in our schools, and this year has included $30 million in its budget proposal to continue it. We believe this initiative is one of the most important educational projects in the state and deserves the support of our leaders in Albany, especially as we welcome asylum-seeking families, our new New Yorkers, to our school system.
There are many barriers our state has yet to address, but this budget plan offered by the Governor contains strong and forward-thinking policies that will empower countless Latino families across New York. We often talk about the importance of an equitable post-pandemic recovery. This budget brings us closer to achieving that goal, and no amount of dirty tricks will stop our unity and progress.
Miranda is president and CEO of Hispanic Federation.