Latinos hold key positions in Nassau County government, which has enhanced collaborations with nonprofit community organizations to bolster access to resources vital for Long Island's largest minority group, County Executive Laura Curran said Friday.
Noting that Latinos on the Island are not a "monolith," but a "diverse" community representing different cultures, Curran announced the county kickoff of Hispanic Heritage Month, from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Latinos now constitute 20.2% of Long Island’s population, at just over 589,000 people, according to the 2020 Census, and in Nassau, they numbered 256,400-plus.
"I am proud to recognize the many Hispanic leaders overseeing critical components of county government here in Nassau," said Curran outside the County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.
Curran praised the work of some 30 officials gathered, including those working in county government departments, and others representing nonprofits focused on Latinos. She said the county's Office of Hispanic Affairs "was on the forefront of our COVID-19 response, helping the community get access, first to testing and then to vaccination around the clock."
Earlier, the county convened a "Hispanics in Leadership" roundtable discussing issues of concern, said Amy Flores, executive director of the county's Office of Hispanic Affairs.
She said the office was continuing efforts to "ensuring everyone has equal access to government resources."
Liza Milgrim-Reyes, president of the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association, said the pandemic led to the creation of a new legal information program in collaboration with the county's Office of Hispanic Affairs. She said the pandemic had brought a "flood of phone calls" from "people not knowing where to get information, what was accurate information."
Milgrim-Reyes said the program has "flourished" since its inception a year-and-a-half ago. "The constituents are able to call the Office of Hispanic Affairs. They are then put in touch with the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association and the team of volunteer attorneys that we have. These people then receive a free consultation. It's confidential with an attorney who's bilingual and they are able to get free, accurate information on many topics."
Noting the growth of Latinos on the Island, Luis Vazquez, president of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said, "Latinos will be making decisions tomorrow … Latinos are a big segment of our community … We are an asset to the county."
George Siberon, executive director of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association, said in an interview that seeing Latinos in key county positions, with access to the county executive and legislators, was "a good thing … It becomes easier for our concerns to be addressed."