Voices’ Blog

Support SB 270 & HB 1049: Increase Language Access & Equity for all Virginians

Posted:  -  By: Chlo'e Edwards

Virginia is home to speakers of many languages. However, the access to language services for individuals with limited English proficiency and individuals with disabilities are inconsistent across the state varying from agency to agency. Without these consistencies, there are no statewide guidelines to ensuring people can get access to the adequate services they need.

During the 2021 special legislative session, $500,000 was included in the budget for a language access translation planning consulting services report, which highlighted 3 in 4 state agencies could not meet LEP speaker needs most of the time. These kinds of barriers have been exacerbated by the urgent needs of the pandemic, which makes an already lengthy process, such as getting access to unemployment in Virginia even lengthier for speakers who are LEP.

SB 270 & HB 1049 notably establishes basic principles so that all Virginians are able to access state agency services feasibly, the legislation:

  1. Requires each state agency to adopt a language access policy (implementing the Commonwealth’s policy) by November 1, 2023.
  2. Requires each agency to designate a language access coordinator who will be responsible for developing and implementing the agency’s language access policy and preparing the agency’s annual language access report.
  3. Establishes an Interagency Working Group on Language Access that will develop a model language access policy for adoption by state agencies and will make recommendations for policy and funding changes to ensure language access needs, particularly for populations who do not speak one of the 10 major foreign languages.
  4. Requires Secretary of Administration to establish criteria for the procurement of language interpretation and translation services by state agencies and determine qualifications of and compensation for state employees who are multilingual and are required as part of their job to provide interpretation, translation, or other bilingual skills at least once a month.
  5. Codifies Virginia agencies’ Title VI obligations.

Since 2006, at least 43 states have enacted law(s) addressing language access in healthcare settings. Virginia can join others and further lead.

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