Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued an Executive Order requiring state agencies that provide direct public services to offer free interpretation and translation services to members of the public for vital forms and instructions.
Based on census data, the services will be offered in Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, French, and French Crole.
Approximately two and a half million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language and have limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English. This presents potential barriers when trying to access important government benefits or services.
"Our state works for all people, regardless of where you were born or what language you speak," said Governor Cuomo. "We are proud that people from all around the world call New York home, making our state a beacon of diversity and tolerance. This Executive Order ensures that non-English speakers receive equal access to the programs, services, and opportunities offered by their state government."
The Governor's Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights Alphonso David will provide oversight and coordination to agencies to help them implement the provisions of the Executive Order. Agencies will fulfill the requirements of the Executive Order on a rolling basis and must fully comply within one year. The Governor's website will be translated as well.
To ensure that language access services are implemented in a cost effective and efficient manner, the New York State Office of General Services has already negotiated bulk discounts for interpretation and translation services for all state agencies. Additionally, the Spending and Government Efficiency ("SAGE") Commission has incorporated this plan in its streamlining of agencies.
Senator Adriano Espaillat, Chair of the Senate Latino Caucus, said, "With this Executive Order, Governor Cuomo is opening the doors of government even wider and removing barriers to the state resources that encourage economic development. Those who do not speak English primarily have been at a disadvantage, and today is an important step toward greater fairness and equality."
Senator Jos M. Serrano said, "Today's announcement represents the ongoing commitment Governor Cuomo has shown to improve the lives of all New Yorkers. We applaud the Governor for his understanding of the needs of this state's residents and for ensuring that government is better able to address them."
Senator Jos Peralta said, "Far too many New Yorkers have been unaware of all of the services available to them due to a lack of English-language skills. With today's Executive Order, Governor Cuomo has provided an essential tool for these residents to benefit from the opportunities offered by our government. I represent what I like to call the United Nations of senate districts, home to immigrants from around the world. On behalf of my constituents, many thanks Governor Cuomo."
Senator Gustavo Rivera said, "Today is a great day for all New Yorkers and is another example of our state leading the way on issues of major importance, especially as it relates to issues of civil rights. With over two million non-English speakers in New York, many residents have had limited access to the public services many of us take for granted, including crucial services related to health, safety, and criminal justice. I commend Governor Cuomo for signing this Executive Order."
Assembly Member Karim Camara, Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus, said, "With many government resources currently available only in English, millions of New Yorkers have been faced with additional hardships in accessing important services, especially those that help small businesses and entrepreneurs grow and create jobs. I thank Governor Cuomo for his efforts to ensure all residents understand what their state has to offer, and I look forward to continuing to work together on behalf of our diverse communities."
Assembly Member Felix W. Ortiz, Chair of the Puerto Rican Hispanic Task Force, said, "With the Governor's Executive Order, millions of New Yorkers, regardless of their primary language, will be able to access state services and benefits and better participate in their state government. This is another example of Governor Cuomo fulfilling his promise to make his Administration the most transparent in New York's history."
Assembly Member Alec Brook-Krasny, Chair of the Task Force on New Americans, said, "By issuing this Executive Order, Governor Cuomo has ensured that during this trying economic time all of those who need state assistance, including those who are not proficient in English, will be able to learn how they can access it. We applaud the Governor for providing this opportunity to millions of New Yorkers."
Assembly Member Grace Meng said, "I thank Governor Cuomo for his efforts to improve access to vital state resources for non-English speaking New Yorkers, including the essential economic development resources that our state offers. Governor Cuomo clearly understands that as we rebuild the Empire State, we must ensure that all residents are able to understand the benefits and services available to them from their state government."
Assembly Member Peter Rivera said, "Too often, language barriers discourage non-English speaking New Yorkers from accessing the resources our state offers to spur our economy and create job opportunities. I thank Governor Cuomo for putting in place these important measures that will help residents contribute to our shared growth and development."
Assembly Member Guillermo Linares said, "Many people come to our state from throughout the world to pursue the American dream and the Governor's Executive Order helps them to accomplish that. Non-English speakers are often at a disadvantage, but today Governor Cuomo has given them a voice. I would also like to thank the coalition of organizations that have been working on this for years. This is a great day for us all."
Assemblyman N. Nick Perry, Assistant Majority Leader and Chairman of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, said, Through this executive order, Governor Cuomo has taken a giant step in support of the peoples right to unimpeded access to their government. The ability to clearly understand ones rights and what your government is trying to communicate is an indispensable ingredient, necessary for empowerment. When implemented, this initiative will be truly empowering, and especially on behalf of my French and Creole speaking constituents I commend Governor Cuomo for this long overdue initiative.
Lillian Rodrguez Lpez, SAGE Commission member and President of the Hispanic Federation, said, "New Yorkers hail from all corners of the world, but they call this state home and play vital roles in the state's economy and society. The Governor's Executive Order will improve accessibility to government resources for all New Yorkers, and it will help them build their families and businesses no matter what language they speak. Furthermore, by improving communication, this Executive Order can help state government deliver services more efficiently and effectively. I commend Governor Cuomo for this important action."
Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella group comprised of nearly 200 organizations that work with immigrant communities statewide, said, "Non-English speaking New Yorkers are often the very residents who need public services the most, and this Executive Order will be an important step in advancing equality in our state. By offering government resources in additional languages, Governor Cuomo will allow millions more New Yorkers to access the opportunity and services that are available to all."
Ana Maria Archilaa, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said: Today, Governor Cuomo is building a bridge between government and millions of immigrant New Yorkers, and all New Yorkers will benefit. New York's government cannot do its job if millions of New Yorkers cannot report crimes or seek vital services. Governor Cuomo should be commended for his vision and his courage, and for a welcoming state that respects the tremendous importance and contributions of its immigrant population.
The state agencies that will be affected by the Governor's Executive Order include, but are not limited to: Office for the Aging; Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services; Office of Children & Family Services; Department of Correctional Services & Community Supervision; Division of Criminal Justice Services; Empire State Development; Department of Health; Office of Mental Health; Department of Environmental Conservation; Division of Housing & Community Renewal; Division of Human Rights; Department of Financial Services; Department of Labor; Department of Motor Vehicles; Department of State; Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence; Division of State Police; Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance; Division of Veterans Affairs; Workers Compensation Board; Department of Public Service; and Office for People With Developmental Disabilities.