Featured: Edinburg Police Chief César Torres looks on as Rubén R. Ramirez, Interim Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, addresses hundreds of area residents who came to the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance on Wednesday, October 2, 2019, for the Biannual Job Fair hosted by the Edinburg EDC.
Photograph Courtesy CITY OF EDINBURG
Edinburg EDC Interim Director Rubén R. Ramírez resigns position effective January 20 as he looks forward to returning to being a full-time attorney
A military veteran who served a full year in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for his service to the nation, Rubén R. Ramírez, the Interim Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, announced that he was resigning his position in order to return to private practice as an attorney.
Ramírez’s resignation goes into effect on Monday, January 20, 2020.
He will be returning to work for a former employer: Chávez Legal Group, headquartered in Edinburg, which serves as Staff Counsel for Loya Insurance Group.
During that evening’s executive session portion of the Edinburg EDC’s Board of Directors monthly meeting, Ramírez said he informed the five-member group, which includes Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Gilbert Enríquez and fellow City Councilmember Jorge Salinas, of his decision.
When that governing board, which met in closed session in the meeting room behind the City Council Chambers at Edinburg City Hall, returned into open session, each of the five board members expressed high praise and appreciation for Ramírez’s work.
Enríquez motioned to accept Ramírez’ letter of resignation, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors, which includes recent appointees Xavier Salinas, Daniel Díaz and Roland Gómez.
Ramírez had been hired on a temporary basis on Friday, July 5, 2019, after former Edinburg EDC Executive Director Joey Treviño had resigned a few days earlier to return to his consulting business.
In thanking the Edinburg EDC Board of Directors for the opportunity to be part of the city’s economic development strategies, Ramírez emphasized that he was departing on positive terms with the Edinburg EDC governing board.
“I don’t want anybody to think that somehow, this was an ousting or termination, or for the (Edinburg EDC) board to get a bad reputation because it is unwarranted,” he said. “We have a great working relationship. These things happen.”
Ramírez noted that when he came on board with the Edinburg EDC, it was on a temporary basis.
“If I had wanted to stay around, I probably could have,” he said. “But I wanted to get back into law. I especially enjoy being in the courtroom. I enjoy trials.”
Ramírez, a graduate of the University of Houston School of Law, said he used his professional skills and experiences, along with his academic background – he attended Texas A&M University before earning a business degree from the University of Texas-Pan American and has completed the first year of a Master of Business Administration – so that his time with the Edinburg EDC was good for everyone involved.
“It is a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship because being here as the executive director, I was able to use my negotiation skills,” he explained. “There are a lot of people who don’t realize that a big portion of an attorney’s job is trying to find common ground, mediating, negotiating these contracts to try to get a better leverage, better deal, and in the case of the Edinburg EDC, for the taxpayers, and further the objectives and goals of the Edinburg EDC Board of Directors.”
He is also a licensed teacher who specializes in chemistry and physics, Ramírez was quick to say how being the interim executive director for the Edinburg EDC was professionally and personally fulfilling for him.
“I learned to lot about construction here because we have a number of projects going on. My network was really about to expand. I was able to meet some amazing people and create some really good lasting friendships, just like these board members here,” said Ramírez. “Also, sometimes, you hear or read about someone on the political spectrum, but when you work with them, you realize that everything you hear about them is not bad. Hopefully, you realize these are people of integrity, they really do a good job, and that negative image goes away.”
He singled out Nelda Ramírez, who was serving as the Edinburg EDC’s Director of Finance and Contract Administration until she resigned in September 2019, and Michael Balderas, Small Business, Workforce Development, and Special Events Coordinator, for their work.
“I want to thank my staff. Mike is amazing, and so was Nelda when she was here. It was a great staff. I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said. “I am sure there will be a lot more success for Edinburg, such as in its local sales tax collections, in construction figures, and so on. It continues to look up-and-up.”
Rubén R. Ramírez said he “was honored and blessed to have been able to lend my talents to the City of Edinburg. I always have this mantra (belief) that you take something, you guard it, you improve it, and you pass it on. So I believe that is what I was able to do here as an interim executive director. I left it better than how I received it, and be able to pass it on.”
CONGRESSMAN CUELLAR HELPS SECURE $1.7 BILLION FOR LOW-INCOME AND HISPANIC STUDENT POPULATIONS
Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, announced on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, that he helped include more than $1.7 billion in the final spending bill to expand student loan and education programs for low-income students and Hispanic student populations, a $200 million increase from the Fiscal Year 2019.
The fiscal Year 2019 covers the federal budget for October 1, 2018, through September 30, 2019.
The fiscal Year 2019 covers the federal budget for October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020.
Cuellar’s Congressional District 28, which is anchored in Laredo, also includes western Hidalgo County, including a portion of McAllen along with Mission and Starr County.
Cuellar also secured language that will improve the Temporary Expanded Public Services Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program by directing the Department of Education to implement the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations, such as providing more information on how student borrows can submit a better application.
“Higher education is one of the best investments that you can make in your and your country’s future. However, higher education has never been more expensive” said Cuellar. “For this reason, I fought for additional funding for vital financial aid programs for low-income and disadvantaged students so everybody has a chance to go to college and pursue their dreams.”
He added that the final spending bill will help make the loan forgiveness program a more fair and reliable process for the millions of Americans who have chosen careers in public service.
“As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to support initiatives that give students the resources to pay for college and help them land a good-paying job,” he said.
Improving Temporary Expanded Public Services Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program
In 2018, Congress included a measure in the final spending bill for a limited expansion of $350 million of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), a program that cancels federal student debt after tears for people who take jobs in public service.
However, from May 2018 to May 2019, ninety-nine percent of loan-forgiveness requests under the new Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) were rejected during the program’s first year. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Department of Education processed roughly 54,000 requests and approved just 661.
To help student borrowers obtain the financial assistance they earned, Congressman Cuellar secured language directing the Department of Education to review the TEPSLF program. The newly added language will simplify the TEPSLF application process so borrowers can apply for TEPSLF at the same time they apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Most importantly, the language directs the Department to provide more information as to why applicants may be denied TEPSLF.
Cuellar helped increase the maximum award for Pell Grants to $6,345, a $150 increase from Fiscal Year 2019. This funding will provide support to students with financial needs who have not earned their first bachelor’s degree, or who are enrolled in certain post-baccalaureate programs, through participating institutions.
He also ensured funding for year-round, or “Summer” Pell Grants, which will provide approximately one million students nationwide with additional funds for higher education.
Cuellar has worked to ensure that higher education is accessible for all regardless of socioeconomic status, throughout his time in public service. As a State Representative in Texas, Cuellar established the Towards Excellence, Access, and Success (TEXAS) Grant Program that provides assistance to students with financial need who are seeking a first Bachelor’s degree, a graduate degree or professional degree. It is now the largest grant program in Texas that has been able to assist thousands of students in continuing to higher education. For more information on TEXAS Grant, click here.
Federal TRIO Programs
Cuellar also pushed for a $30 million increase for Federal TRIO Programs from Fiscal Year 2019 funding; the Fiscal Year 2020 total of $1.09 billion.
TRIO programs are federal outreach and student services programs designed to help individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds progress through their academic careers from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs. These programs primarily serve low-income, first-generation college students, as well as students with disabilities, veterans, homeless youth, foster youth, and individuals underrepresented in graduate education.
At some universities, the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Program helps increase college retention and graduation rates of its participants. TRIO SSS supports its students by offering academic tutoring, personal and academic counseling, and leadership conferences. Because of on-going support for program participants, TRIO SSS students continuously outperform non-program participants with increased retention, higher grades, and higher graduation rates.
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs
Cuellar helped secure $395 million for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a $35 million increase from Fiscal Year 2019.
GEAR UP Programs are designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides six-year grants that provide funding for services at high-poverty middle and high schools. They also provide college scholarships to low-income students and fund support services for students including tutoring, mentoring, offering dual enrollment classes and college tours.
The objectives of these programs are to increase academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education, increase high school graduation and postsecondary participation rates, and increase families’ knowledge of postsecondary options, preparation, and finances.
College Assistance Migrant Program and the Highschool Equivalency Program
Cuellar helped secured $50,000,000 for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and the High School Equivalency Program (HEP), a $5.4 million increase from Fiscal Year 2019.
CAMP assists migratory or seasonal workers enroll in their first year of undergraduate studies at institutions of higher education while HEP assists migratory or seasonal workers to obtain high school equivalent education services. Both these programs ensure quality education for students who may not otherwise have the means to access higher education.
Securing Millions for Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs)
Cuellar’s additional wins include millions for HSIs. This includes $150 million for the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, a $26 million increase from Fiscal Year 2019. This program provides grants to HSIs to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the educational attainment of, Hispanic students. This bill also includes $30 million to help promote post-baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans, an $18.9 increase from Fiscal Year 19.
Alexis Torres contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).