Tag Archive: bills

  1. Increasing Language Access & Equity in Virginia

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    Virginia is home to speakers of many languages. However, the access to language services are inconsistent across the state varying from agency to agency. Without these consistencies, there are no statewide guidelines to ensuring limited English proficient (LEP) individuals can get access to the adequate services they need. According to Voices for Virginia’s Children:

    • 1 in 4 children are immigrants or living in an immigrant family;
    • 1 in 5 children in Virginia speak a language other than English;
    • 44,000 children may require language access services;

    Languages most often spoken by speakers with limited English proficiency in Virginia include Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 13166 requires recipients of federal financial assistance to take reasonable steps to make their programs, services, and activities accessible to individuals who are eligible with limited English proficiency.

    In April 2021, the Virginia Department of Health published instructions for English-speaking readers stating the COVID-19 vaccine “will not be required for Virginians.” However, the Spanish-language translation conducted through a Google Translation widget stated, the COVID-19 vaccine, “no sera necesario,” or will not be necessary. Notably, Virginia may have further exacerbated disparities minority communities were already facing. While the public was encouraged to seek credible information, the state failed to ensure it was comprehensive to all.

    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.

    Three bills have been introduced during the Virginia General Assembly Session to increase language access and ensure every family is able to gain access to the information and services they need, including their health care options. Each bill focuses on supporting language access for the following areas:

    • (SB 270 & HB 1049) – all state agencies (services provision and administration);
    • (HB 987) – a Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) bill that will specifically impact Medicaid in the state code and will address that part of the code;
    • (SB 245) – DMAS, and medical debt.

    In addition to language access, the medical debt bill includes critical provisions to ensure linguistically marginalized communities in Virginia (LMCs) understand their medical bills, know their rights to medical debt assistance, and receive essential information in-language.

     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 has the opportunity to join others and further lead. 

    Take Action.

    Click here to send a message to your public official.

  2. 2021 GA Session: Conference Budget Report

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    The 2021 General Assembly is coming to a close with good news for children and families. While the last year has produced tremendous disruptions and up and downs for families, the revenue picture in Virginia is in better shape than expected and lawmakers were able to restore many initiatives that were unallocated last year and identify new ways to repair systems to provide a more equitable foundation.

    Our issue specific blog posts will include more details on the full budget package next week. Below are some of the highlights state legislators are proposing to go above and beyond the Governor’s introduced budget. Most changes included below would go into effect July 1, 2021.

    Health Care Access and Prenatal Care:

    • Providing health care coverage prenatally for pregnant women who are immigrants. Funding is included in the budget to direct Virginia to provide Medicaid/FAMIS coverage for low-income pregnant women who are immigrants. Currently, this population only receives coverage for the birth and delivery, not comprehensive prenatal coverage.
    • Funding and training for doula care for eligible pregnant women.
    • Language directing the state to begin exploring the costs and benefits of providing health care coverage for all immigrant children.
    • Directing the state to develop a plan for a Medicaid benefit for home visiting.

    Children’s Mental Health:

    • Restoring $1.6 million to expand the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program. This initiative is critical to incentivize more clinicians to enter the field and to diversify the workforce.
    • Language directing DOE to begin implementing the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program and report on additional legislative or regulatory changes needed.

    Pre-K–12 Education and Education Equity:

    • Increasing the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) per pupil amount to $7,655 as introduced in the Governor’s budget to reflect per pupil costs for high quality instruction. VPI has historically underfunded the cost to provide high quality early education for disadvantaged students.
    • Including $49 million to hire additional student support staff such as social workers, nurses and psychologists and funding in the introduced budget for additional school counselors.

    Family Economic Security:

    • Increasing the TANF Standards of Assistance by 10%, including both eligibility and cash assistance payments.
    • Including $2.1 million TANF funded Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) so that TANF-eligible individuals may save funds in an individual development account established for the purposes of home purchase, education, starting a business, transportation, or other needs.
    • Including an additional $2 million for the Virginia Food Access Investment Program. This program will decrease food deserts in rural and urban communities through retail investments.
    • $6.9 million in funding for paid sick leave for personal care attendants. We are disappointed that a larger population was not considered but recognize this as a first step in ensuring frontline workers have access to paid time off.

    Trauma-Informed Care:

    • Restoring $143,000 to implement the ACEs Interface training initiative. This also supports a full-time Central Office position to provide oversight over 100 ACE Interface Master Trainers and facilitate additional training.

    Child Welfare:

    • Extended payments for those aging out of Fostering Futures. Adds language to extend payments to children aging out of the Fostering Futures program through September 2021.
    • Casework Salary Increases Restores $2.2 million for local social services departments’ (LDSS) to increase minimum salary levels for LDSS family services by 20 percent.
    • Created State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program to facilitate child placements with relatives, including fictive kin, and ensure permanency for children. The bill sets forth eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements.

    For more updates on budget and the 2021 General Assembly session results, subscribe to our policy emails.