HD51 - A Plan for Increasing Awareness of the Requirements to Provide Meaningful Access to Information and Services in the Health and Human Resources Secretariat for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency
House Joint Resolution (HJR) 71 of the 2004 General Assembly directed the Secretary of Health and Human Resources (SHHR) to develop a plan to increase awareness of the requirements to provide meaningful access to services to people with limited English proficiency (LEP) who are lawfully in the United States. HJR 71 also directs the Secretary to identify, prioritize, and estimate the costs of translating information and documents used by Secretariat agencies and service providers. Other charges included identifying federal resources available and identifying options for obtaining translation services with consideration given to quality and accuracy of translations.
Census 2000 data indicated a significant increase in the population of foreign-born residents in the Commonwealth. By 2000, eight percent or more than 570,000 of the state’s population consisted of those born in foreign countries. Between 1990 and 2000 in Virginia, there was a seventy-six percent increase in those who “spoke a language other than English at home.” Nationally, Virginia ranks eleventh in the number of foreign-born residents. Of those individuals over 5 years old, five percent reported that they spoke English “less than very well.”
Federal legislation affects state agency funding in requiring compliance with certain principles. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits recipients of federal funding from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race, color, or national origin. This has been interpreted to require meaningful access to information and services for those persons with limited English proficiency. Agencies receiving federal funding are mandated to comply with these requirements.
Federal guidance on Title VI presents a four-factor analysis which is used by recipients of federal funds to determine how to comply with its requirements. Those factors include: 1) the number or proportion of LEP persons served or encountered in the eligible service population; 2) the frequency with which LEP individuals come into contact with the recipients’ program, activity or service; 3) the nature and importance of the recipient’s program, activity or service; and 4) the resources available to the federal funds recipient and the costs of such services. The four factor analysis is used to determine the mix of services needed for LEP persons.
In response to HJR 71, the Secretary of Health and Human Resources convened a work group with representatives from agencies within the Secretariat. Agencies within the Secretariat are all involved to some extent in providing meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency. Some of the agencies provide direct services to citizens and some do not. Some receive federal funding while others do not.
HJR 71 contained four (4) specific requirements:
1) Recommendations for developing a plan for increasing the awareness of the requirements to provide meaningful access to information and services in the Secretariat for LEP individuals
• All agencies in the Secretariat are aware of the requirements to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency. However, agency-specific plans should be developed to increase awareness and access to services. The plans should include the development of an agency-wide policy, the designation of an entity within the agency responsible for overseeing the implementation and monitoring of the plan and developing specific timeframes. The plans should be developed at the statewide level and include the specific plans for different service delivery areas.
• The Secretary should continue the work group convened to respond to HJR 71 to monitor the efforts of the Secretariat to develop plans and establish timeframes.
• Agencies should develop standard language for contracts and interagency agreements that describe the requirements for providing meaningful access to LEP individuals who may use their service when federal funding supports the provided service.
• Agencies in the Secretariat should evaluate and consider the cost benefit of capturing the primary language of individuals served in the data bases they maintain. The agencies in the Secretariat should agree on a standard list of languages for consistency.
2) Identify, prioritize, and estimate the costs of translating significant information and documents used by agencies and service providers in the Secretariat
• All agencies within the Health and Human Resources Secretariat should prioritize the documents identified as vital and most critical to their functions.
• All prioritized and critical documents should be translated first into Spanish, and later into other intensively used languages, in compliance with federal guidance.
• Each agency in the Secretariat should allocate a reasonable amount from existing funding to begin translation of vital documents. Although no specific grants were identified to assist with translation services, agencies may want to explore the possibility of submitting grant proposals to assist with funding for translation services.
3) Determine Federal resources available to assist service providers in efforts to serve this population
• Federal resources for funding efforts to assist in complying with Title VI requirements are very limited. To reduce cost and duplication of efforts, each agency should identify vital and critical documents that are used statewide. These documents should be translated once and made available to all service delivery areas.
• The Department of Health and Human Services’ regional office has offered to provide training for state and local staff regarding LEP requirements and compliance. The workgroup should pursue scheduling training for staff directly involved in writing plans, identifying vital documents, and other activities cited in this report.
4) Identify options for obtaining translation services with consideration to quality and technical accuracy of the translation
• The Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA) should educate state agencies on the new contract for telephone interpreter services and how to make use of this service. VITA should also pursue expanding their existing contract to include translation services.
• The Department of General Services (DGS) should explore the possibility of initiating a statewide contract for translation services. A statewide contract would save the duplicate effort of each individual agency procuring translation services. The contract would provide a list of translation services throughout the state. These competitively procured services would leverage the buying power of the state and hopefully provide a reasonable price for all state agencies.
• DGS should also explore the possibility of state agencies using the federal GSA schedules for procuring translation and interpretation services.
• Any statewide contract or any other procurement should include a requirement that translators be certified by the American Translators Association or other organizations that provide similar services.
The work of the group convened by the Secretary of Health and Human Resources has focused attention on improving access to services for individuals who do not speak English well. All agencies in the Secretariat were aware of the requirements to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency. All agencies were already engaged in activities to meet the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Although agencies should be congratulated for their efforts, more work is needed to insure complete compliance with the law and to adequately serve individuals with limited English proficiency. Clearly a formal and organized approach is needed to insure that all agencies are doing everything that is needed to provide meaningful access. It is also important that the Secretary monitor and direct the work of Health and Human Resources agencies in this effort. To that end, the Secretary should continue the work of the HJR 71 work group to assist and guide agencies in the development, implementation and monitoring of plans to meet the needs of individuals with limited English proficiency.