For Immediate Release: May 11, 2016
Contact: Bernie Saenz,
Director of Program Services, (956) 903-1900
VIDA FOR VETERANS – Texas Veterans Commission Awards $300,000 Grant to Help Valley Veterans
(MERCEDES)-The Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) announced that the Texas Veterans Commission through the Funds for Veterans Assistance program, awarded VIDA a $300,000 grant to provide educational and job training opportunities as well as supportive services for Texas Veterans in the Rio Grande Valley. The program name for this grant is VIDA for Veterans!
The RGV is home to an estimated 50,000 veterans according to the VA Office of the Actuary (Vet Pop 2014). The number of veterans and their respective families is expected to considerably increase in the RGV with the military drawdown announced by Congress and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the Middle East. The Valley is also one of the poorest areas in the country. Despite the growth the region has experienced in the last 10 years, the Valley finds itself mired with some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the state and nation. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (June 2015) indicates a lower unemployment rate for Texas (4.2%) when compared to the U.S. (5.3%) as a whole, the RGV struggles with high poverty and unemployment rates. This can largely be attributed to the low academic and/or “occupation specific” skill levels of its residents; a question of education improvement and/or training for higher skill/higher wage jobs.
Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, himself a Veteran and a staunch advocate for all things needed to better attend to RGV Veterans’ needs, commented “My passion and commitment for U.S. Veterans is unwavering. We are indebted to each woman and man that fought for our freedom. We are equally indebted to their families. This grant from Texas Veterans Commission will help our Veterans, their spouses and children, to obtain the education and training needed to compete for the good, family sustaining jobs. I congratulate VIDA for its arduous work at changing the lives of many and growing the economic base in the region”
The TVC grant will allow VIDA to infuse its comprehensive wraparound support services program, which includes an intensive case management component that provides career pathway choices to underserved, unemployed, and underemployed Texas veterans, their surviving spouses and dependents (Beneficiaries) for all counties of the Rio Grande Valley. Upon transition from military to civilian life or while unemployed, VIDA will assist Beneficiaries. Beneficiaries will result in a highly skilled workforce with market value credentials that meets regional business and industry employer needs in high-demand occupations crucial to economic advancement and future sustained employment. “We are so excited to receive this grant” commented Irma Garcia, VIDA’s Deputy Executive Director. “VIDA received funding in 2015 and were able to surpass our benchmark; this a testament to the high demand in our area”.
“95% of the Valley Veterans that VIDA served with the first grant were at or below national poverty and/or unemployed. We should never be ‘ok’ with that” stated Myra Caridad García, VIDA’s returning and now Interim Executive Director. “Graduates from the first disbursement of TVC funding are now earning an average salary $30,140 with benefits. VIDA Chairman of the Board, Eddie Anaya recognized the concerted efforts of all Valley State Representatives, “VIDA is grateful to the entire delegation of state leaders that have helped share the message. That message is not just what the problem is, but how to help fix it. VIDA is doing that”.
VIDA was created by community leaders of Valley Interfaith and a strong cross section of business leaders who wanted a vehicle to empower the underserved residents of the region to access education and training and at the same time create a skilled labor force to stimulate the Valley’s economy. VIDA’s educational partners include South Texas College, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Texas Southmost College and Texas State Technical College-Harlingen.
“This program is supported by a grant from the Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veterans’ Assistance. The Fund for Veterans’ Assistance provides grants to organizations serving veterans and their families.”
For every dollar invested in VIDA, there is a return of $12.12 to the communities we serve
(Economic Impact Study 2015 –University of Texas-Pan American, Data & Information Systems Center)
Impacting Sustainable Economic Growth in the Region …One VIDA at a Time!