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Finally: OCHLA gets funding it deserves in new Ohio budget


By Alan Abrams

La Prensa Senior Correspondent


It is like a dream come true for Ezra C. Escudero, Director of the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA).


The new Ohio budget, signed into law by Gov. Ted Strickland over the weekend after it passed the Ohio Senate and House with bipartisan support, allocates $700,121 to OCHLA in funding for fiscal 2008.


Last year, the agency received only $181,000, “barely enough to keep the lights on,” said Escudero Monday.


Although Gov. Strickland vetoed 38 items in the budget before giving it his final approval, there was little concern that OCHLA’s funding would not survive. “The amount that the Governor allocated in March was the same as what we received,” said Escudero.


Ezra C. Escudero

The agency’s funding for 2009 increases to $707,156, he added.


“The last time this agency had adequate funding was in 1986 when we received $313,000, adjusted for inflation,” said Escudero. “That was double what we were given in the last fiscal year and since then; the Hispanic population of Ohio has quadrupled.


“There have only been two of us working in the office full-time for the last four years with the help of some interns,” said Escudero.


He cautioned not to expect any “fireworks” for the rest of this calendar year. Instead, he and the agency will be working on setting up the infrastructure “we need to get things done.”


That means Escudero will be filling two key full-time positions and hiring two to three more part-time college interns, making five more people working in the office.


“We will be constructing a community organizations database as well as building a statewide calendar of Latino events. We will also be building a new Website. And starting next year, we will be conducting a series of programs across the state. Some of these programs will be for community agencies for which they can submit bids. Between our own programs and those up for bids, within the next two years we estimate spending $500,000 on community projects,” said Escudero.


The infrastructure Escudero will be building will enable the agency “to establish a fair evaluation process to select the winners in the bidding process,” said Escudero.


The two staff positions to be filled are for a Community Liaison Officer, which has already been announced, and a Policy Liaison Officer, which Escudero expects to announce later this fall.


Escudero says he will remain “front and center” in the halls of power as the agency’s director.


“We thank not only the Governor, but the members of the House and Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, for their support,” says Escudero.


2007 to 2008 Ohio Budget for OCHLA









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