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MN Latino leaders seek new hub to bolster community outreach

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Tuesday, February 13, 2024   

Minnesota's legislative session kicked off this week. A bill for construction projects is possible, and those serving Latino communities hope to get support for a centralized facility they say is much needed to connect with clients.

The new session isn't expected to see as many ambitious policy moves as last year, but a bonding bill for things such as transportation and water systems is on the list.

The organization COPAL is asking for $7 million in state funding so it can open a Latino Center for Community Engagement in Minneapolis.

Francisco Segovia, COPAL executive director, said they need to upgrade their operations in anticipation of population trends.

"Latinos, we are positioned to be almost 10% of the population by 2030 in Minnesota, and we want to build the infrastructure to support our community members to thrive," Segovia said.

COPAL provides services such as health and wellness and workers' rights, with a presence in the Twin Cities, Mankato and Rochester. But officials say there are limitations with their current offices, such as individual rooms for one-on-one meetings.

It's unclear if the funding request will be approved amid other bonding bill priorities. And while Democrats hold majorities this session, GOP votes are needed for such a bill.

Lourdes Menjívar, regional director for COPAL's Mankato office, said transportation is a barrier for the local Latino community, and added the centralized location could enhance infrastructure for online events, potentially allowing more people to access their programs and information.

"We're working with nine counties in the Mankato area office," Menjivar explained. "So, they can connect everywhere in Minnesota if people have a specific base to make any activities."

COPAL has already secured property for the proposed facility. Organizers say owning this building space would allow them to lease community and meeting rooms to other racial and ethnic populations lacking a hub. So far, the campaign has raised $2 million. The state contribution would make up the majority of the project costs, if the full amount is awarded.

Disclosure: COPAL MN contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Environmental Justice, Immigrant Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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