07/13/2010 03:00 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What's the Holdup? Strategies to Jump-Start a Stalled Economy

More than 15 million Latinos are unemployed. If 400,000 jobs were created each month, it would take three years to get back to a national unemployment rate of 5%. Worse, more than 4.5 million families are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. It's easy to get lost in these grim statistics, but for the millions of Latinos and Blacks bearing the brunt of the financial crisis, it's much more personal than numbers. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), through the work of its Affiliates and the NCLR Homeownership Network, sees the recession from the eyes of families facing the prospect of losing their jobs and homes.

Although financial experts say that the national economy has turned a corner, minority communities have remained stagnant. At Monday's Economy town hall at the 2010 NCLR Annual Conference, major national figures convened to report on the status of economic recovery in Latino communities and discuss local and national approaches to restoring the nation's financial well-being. Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), acknowledged that communities of color have been hit hardest by the recession. He announced First Look, a new HUD initiative that gives state and local governments, and nonprofits involved in the HUD Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the first opportunity to acquire HUD properties. He also announced that there would be increased rental assistance to ensure that public housing is available to everyone who needs it. Citing Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation in public schools more than 50 years ago, as evidence that segregation in public housing must end, Secretary Donovan declared that it was time to put an end to a "separate but equal housing" policy.

Lack of access to opportunity prohibits communities that need support the most from getting it. Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO of PolicyLink, said that the location of where someone lives has become a determinant of opportunity. She felt that all aspects of a region--from public transportation and affordable housing to job training and employment opportunity--should be a coordinated effort to enable every community to have a chance at succeeding. Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio underscored this point in his comments about his city, noting the Trinity Project, a holistic effort to improve neighborhoods by bringing public education, public transportation, and utilities closer together.

With record-high foreclosure and unemployment rates, addressing the needs of communities of color is not only essential to restoring financial stability to Blacks and Latinos but also vital to the health of our national economy. While these initiatives are steps in the right direction, Americans need to call their senators and let them know that despite the positive headlines and bright forecasts, our communities continue to shoulder the burden of a stalled economy. Let them know the importance of implementing and enforcing local hiring to boost employment in communities that are desperate for jobs. Remind them of their responsibility to all communities by marching on Washington as part of the One Nation rally this October to call for an increased national focus on jobs.

It's true that the deck is stacked against us. It's true that there is a long road ahead to real recovery for communities of color. But it is also true that the nation's economic recovery -- the very future of this country -- depends on financially stable communities of color. Our needs cannot and will not be ignored.