Recently, I had the opportunity to welcome U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to Colorado, when she toured the Denver Green Jobs Initiative. Partnering with Mi Casa Resource Center, a Denver-based nonprofit that teaches Latinos and low-income families skills that will help them get good-paying jobs, the Denver Green Jobs Initiative offers free job training and job placement assistance to jump-start careers in clean energy industries. Having received over $3.6 million from the Department of Labor through the Pathways out of Poverty Initiative of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the program aims to train 500 Five Points-area residents in the next two years.
At Mi Casa, Secretary Solis spoke with Latina businesswomen and Mi Casa staff and explained how expanding green jobs can help get our economy get back on track. "The President and I feel strongly that in order to realize our vision to create sustainable energy sources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we need to invest in our most valuable resource -- our people," Secretary Solis said. She applauded Mi Casa and the Denver Green Jobs Initiative's efforts to help minorities find employment and build careers in green industries.
Nationally, the unemployment rate for Latinos is 3 percent higher than the average. But through the Denver Green Jobs Initiative and other programs Mi Casa offers, we can help reduce the unemployment and poverty in the Latino community.
This is why I called on Congress, during the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials meeting in June, to pass smart energy and climate legislation that would create thousands of jobs in the clean energy sector. Not only would this legislation create new job opportunities for the Latino community, building a 21st century clean energy economy will help reduce low- and moderate-income families' utility bills by making homes more energy efficient.
In addition to being disproportionately affected by unemployment and poverty, the Latino community faces higher incidences of diabetes, childhood obesity, dental disease, childhood asthma, and other diseases. Because of these alarming facts, I made sure there were provisions in the health insurance reform bill to help eliminate health disparities in minority groups. I co-sponsored an amendment to strengthen the Offices of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, which monitor health care trends and quality of care among minority patients in order to evaluate the success of minority health programs and initiatives. Along with other provisions in the new health reform law, this will help us better address the glaring health disparities facing Latinos and other minority groups in the United States.
Furthermore, addressing our country's broken immigration system is a top priority of mine. While the issue is one where emotions run high, I believe we can find agreement on comprehensive immigration reform that provides sensible solutions to the system's challenges. In April, I joined 15 other senators in signing a letter to President Obama outlining the goals of a comprehensive immigration reform bill and calling on his support to pass strong legislation this year.
The Latino Community's interests are diverse and increasingly relevant to every major issue we face as a nation. Whether it is energy, education, immigration, health care, or the economy, I will continue to work to bridge the divides on these challenging issues.
Senator Mark Udall