Meng Calls for Federal Government to Translate COVID-19 Materials into Multiple Languages

Feb 17, 2021
Press Release
Congresswoman’s bill would remove barriers that ethnic and non-English speaking communities in Queens and across the country face in accessing critical coronavirus information

QUEENS, NY – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) today announced the introduction of legislation that would require federal government agencies to translate into multiple languages all written COVID-19-related materials including resources on coronavirus vaccines that are produced for the public. Congresswoman introduced this measure last Congress.

 
The COVID-19 Language Access Act would apply to any federal agency that receives coronavirus-related funding. It would mandate agencies to provide written resources in 20 languages including: Arabic, Cambodian, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Haitian, Hindi, Hmong, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
 
“COVID-19 continues to ravage our nation, especially communities of color. To help close the health disparities these communities face, federal agencies must translate COVID-19-related materials into additional languages,” said Meng. “This is a necessary—and lifesaving—step that will reach those who may not possess English proficiency. I am proud that my bill has served as a basis for President Biden’s recent presidential memorandum to address cultural and linguistic barriers to COVID-19 relief and recovery, especially for Asian Americans. President Biden’s executive actions underscores the inequities of language access particularly in the fight against this COVID-19 pandemic. As our nation prepares to ramp up vaccine administration for every American, we must make sure no one is left behind. Ultimately, one’s grasp of the English language should never determine their ability and access to fighting against this pandemic. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and look forward to it becoming law.”
 
"Nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, limited English proficient families continue to struggle to access timely and even basic information about COVID. We desperately need a whole of community approach to ensure all families get the information they need when they need it," said Juliet K. Choi, Chief Executive Officer of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF). "Congresswoman Meng's bill is urgently needed to ensure that language is not a barrier to accessing care or impeding our country’s collective recovery from this devastating pandemic."   
 
“JNCL-NCLIS is proud to endorse the COVID-19 Language Access Act which will help ensure that all Americans have timely, equitable, multilingual access to vital public health information essential to stem the tide of this global pandemic" said Amanda Seewald, President of the Joint National Committee for LanguagesNational Council for Languages and International Studies. "We are committed to supporting legislative policy that facilitates a free movement of information and empowers people through the many languages of our nation. We thank Representative Meng for her leadership and stand ready to provide any additional support.”
 
“Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC is proud to endorse the COVID-19 Language Access Act because making critical information available in multiple languages is a much-needed first step toward equity – and one that must be undertaken immediately by the federal government when it comes to information about COVID-19,” said Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC’s President and Executive Director John C. Yang. “Approximately one in three Asian Americans are limited-English proficient, which impacts their ability to access vital services and assistance. The pandemic has exacerbated health, economic, and other disparities in our communities and we cannot allow these disparities to widen any further.”
 
"As a multi-lingual nation, with significant numbers of limited English speakers, ensuring that material about COVID-19 -- including vaccine information -- is culturally competent and provided in a variety of languages is a matter of life and death," said Frankie Miranda, President and CEO of the Hispanic Federation. "One of our most powerful tools in fighting the virus – and any public health emergency – is a well-informed public. Disseminating accurate information will prove even more critical as vaccines become available to larger segments of the population. Translating information about COVID-19 by our federal agencies for already vulnerable populations is a simple but necessary action to help our nation recover from this pandemic as quickly as possible."
 
“NCAPA applauds the leadership of Rep. Meng for the introduction of this legislation,” said Gregg Orton, National Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). “For the last year, we have called for greater attention to the plight of AAPI communities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the country grappled with the ongoing crisis and recovery efforts began, it was clear that equitable access had been sacrificed for expediency. The COVID-19 Language Access Act aims to address these concerns and ensure that many communities who are regularly overlooked by the federal government have more of an opportunity to benefit from federal support.”
 
“UnidosUS is proud to support the COVID-19 Language Access Act and commends Congresswoman Meng for her leadership in expanding access to coronavirus-related resources by increasing language access services, especially to Americans who have limited English proficiency,” said Eric Rodriguez, Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at UnidosUS. “Language access is an issue that has long been a priority for UnidosUS and during a pandemic it is particularly important that the tens of millions of Americans who speak a language other than English have the information and resources they need to stay safe and healthy. This bill would ensure that language is no barrier to those in our community seeking and accessing care and vital resources—including vaccines—related to COVID-19 and we urge its consideration and swift passage.”
 
"SEARAC applauds Rep. Meng for introducing the COVID-19 Language Access Act,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, Acting Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). “Linguistically accessible COVID-19 information continues to be a major hurdle for Southeast Asian Americans, especially as our country begins planning for vaccine distribution to the American public. We are excited that this robust bill explicitly includes four major Southeast Asian languages so that our hard-hit communities may access vital information to keep themselves and their families healthy."
 
“In the United States, 9% of the population is limited in English proficiency which impacts the level of care people receive in the health care system. Research has shown that use of professional medical interpreters has a positive impact on patient care. The use of professional interpreters has been associated with improved clinical care and positive patient outcomes for limited-English proficient (LEP) patients, who are at a higher risk of injuries due to lack of resources to explain patient safety guidelines. Under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, Laotian Americans as well as other ethnic groups are entitled to language access in health care but far too often, the funding needed for translation materials is lacking," said Jonathan Vorasane, Chairman of the Laotian American National Alliance.
 
"The inadequacy of many of our government agencies in providing linguistically appropriate information about programs and services available in support of individuals, organizations, and businesses has been a glaring failure of several COVID relief programs and has been felt disproportionately in Asian American communities,” said David Inoue, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League. “Language barriers to service yield confusion and mistrust, dampening our hopes for successful public health and economic aid efforts. The language requirements of this legislation will enable more equitable access to the necessary services of our government in responding to the continuing COVID pandemic." 
 
“The National Health Law Program strongly supports Representative Meng’s COVID-19 Language Access Act,” said Mara Youdelman, Managing Attorney (DC Office) of the National Health Law Program. “Individuals who are limited English proficient have faced discrimination in access to testing and treatment due to language barriers. Everyone in the United States needs accurate and timely information, in a language they can understand, to ensure we defeat the pandemic.”
 
The COVID-19 Language Access Act is endorsed by: Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), Hispanic Federation, Joint National Committee for Languages-National Council for Languages and International Studies, Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Laotian American National Alliance (LANA), Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), and UnidosUS.