The UCF Puerto Rico Research Hub (PRRH) has been awarded $500,000 in funding to expand its research capabilities to better track key social and economic trends. The funding is part of the FY2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which supports a range of domestic and foreign policy priorities.

“There is no better investment than education and research to understand the impact of the continuous growth of the Puerto Rican population in Florida, particularly in Central Florida,” says Fernando Rivera, PRRH director. “Understanding and coming up with solutions to the pressing issues encountered by this important segment of the population is not only important for Puerto Ricans in Florida, but to all who live and call Central Florida home.”

Rivera founded the PRRH after Hurricane Maria devasted the island in 2017, resulting in a surge of the Puerto Rican population in Central Florida. The hub provides essential information about Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican population to communities throughout Florida and elsewhere in the United States. Through research, educational, outreach, and partnership activities, the PRRH has become a model for study and engaging with this growing, diverse community.

The funding will allow the PRRH to conduct polls on key social and education issues. It will allow the hub to invest in communication and marketing tools to develop reports, infographics and other educational materials for distribution to scholars, the community, policy makers and others. The PRRH will also hire new research staff, support community focus groups and events that assist with research, purchase technology and software. The information garnered from the PRRH’s research will, among other things, enable government officials and community leaders to make more informed decisions as to how best to allocate resources to serve communities with significant Puerto Rican populations.

“This funding will be instrumental in expanding the capacity of the hub, which is vital given the presence of the diaspora here in Central Florida,” says Zoé Colón, senior advisor to the PRRH and associate director of Global Perspectives & International Initiatives, who spearheaded UCF efforts to secure the funds.  “I am also thrilled about the increased opportunities for students to get involved in research at the hub.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (Kissimmee), whose father is Puerto Rican, was instrumental in including funding for the PRRH in Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill last summer. This was later lumped into the year-ending omnibus, which included all outstanding appropriations bills. “Rep. Soto has been a champion for the Puerto Rico Research Hub since day one and want to thank him for believing that education and research are pathways to advance and enhance the lives of our community members,” Rivera says.

UCF will publish research findings through a public awareness campaign, and include these findings in a new magazine being jointly produced by the PRRH and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) – Rio Piedras, which will begin publication in 2023. UCF will also disseminate findings to members of Congress, and officials in states and localities with significant Puerto Rican population clusters.