Nation-Leading Policy Builds on and Improves Language Access Services for New Yorkers with Limited English Proficiency
Requires State Agencies To Translate Vital Documents Into the 12 Most Commonly Spoken Non-English Languages in the State
Provides Flexibility for Agencies to Add Additional Languages Based on Regional Language Needs and Other Factors
New Office Will Oversee the Policy and Provide Guidance and Support Across State Agencies
State Agency Language Access Plans are Available Here
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the launch of the Office of Language Access to oversee and provide guidance on the expanded statewide language access policy, which was codified as part of the FY 2023 Enacted Budget. This reinforces New York State's place as a national leader in language access and fulfills a commitment made in Governor Hochul's 2022 State of the State agenda. The codification of the country's nation-leading statewide language access policy and the establishment of the Office of Language Access are critical steps that build on and improve access to State services for New Yorkers with limited English proficiency, many of whom are immigrants.
"The Statue of Liberty in our harbor tells the world that New York is welcome to anyone and everyone," Governor Hochul said. "Today, we are making it easier for all New Yorkers to benefit from every service and resource our state has to offer by tearing down language barriers. By supporting immigrants and others who are trying to build better lives for themselves and their families, we are making one thing clear: Our state welcomes you and celebrates you."
The new language access law codifies and expands New York's statewide language access policy by requiring all executive State agencies that provide direct services or benefits to provide interpretation services in any language. In addition, applicable agencies must translate vital agency documents into the top 12 most commonly spoken non-English languages based on data published by the Census Bureau. These languages currently include Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Yiddish, Bengali, Korean, Haitian Creole, Italian, Arabic, Polish, French, and Urdu.
State agencies will also have the option to offer vital documents translated into up to four additional languages beyond the required 12, based on factors such as regional language access needs, the number of recently arrived immigrants who have limited English proficiency, feedback from community groups, and the populations of individuals with limited English proficiency most commonly served by different agencies. These additional languages, which will be decided by each agency in consultation with the Office of Language Access, will provide important flexibility in responding to language access needs across different agencies and throughout different areas of the state.
The State Budget set aside $2 million in funding for the establishment of the Office of Language Access, which will operate out of the Office of General Services and provide critical oversight and coordination across State agencies to ensure that the new language access law is implemented efficiently and effectively. This includes funds that are available to other State agencies to translate documents into additional languages covered under the new law.
New York State Office of General Services Commissioner Jeanette Moy said, "OGS is proud to be the home of New York State's new Office of Language Access and support Governor Hochul's commitment to providing New Yorkers with limited English proficiency with improved access to government services. New Yorkers with limited English proficiency play an essential role in our state's economy and are integral parts of our communities. They deserve equitable access to vital documents, information, and services. We are proud to work with State agencies to improve customer service for communities statewide."
Executive Director of the New York State Office of Language Access, Margarita Larios said, "By establishing the Office of Language Access to develop and implement its codified language access policy, the State reaffirms its commitment to equity for all New Yorkers. This is a milestone in our journey to address the disparities for the people of New York State, especially those brought on by language barriers. With the launch of the Office of Language Access, we are establishing the foundation to ensure that New Yorkers who do not speak, read or write English very well can nonetheless meaningfully access and benefit from the State's programs. I'm honored to have been appointed to oversee this transformative work and grateful to Governor Hochul and OGS Commissioner Jeanette Moy for their commitment to meeting the needs of our limited English proficient communities."
Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, Murad Awawdeh said, "Every New Yorker should be able to access important and urgent information from our government and its agencies without any obstacles. This pandemic showed many faults in our systems, one of the many being language access and the ability for all New Yorkers to receive important information in a preferred language. New York State took an important step towards righting that wrong when it expanded and codified the previous Language Access Executive Order. While there are still significant barriers to language access for New York’s immigrant communities, particularly those who speak languages of limited diffusion (LLDs), we look forward to working with Office of Language Access on implementation of the current language access policy, it’s expansion and future improvements."
These announcements mark a significant expansion of and improvement upon New York's existing language access policy, which has been in place through executive order since 2011. When this policy was first implemented, agencies were required to translate documents into the top six most common non-English languages, and in 2021 this was increased to 10.
Pursuant to the language access law, each State agency covered by the new law designates a language access coordinator who will work with OLA to ensure compliance and measure performance. Agencies are also required to post a language access plan within 90 days of the law taking effect, and then every two years thereafter. Current agency language access plans can be found on the OLA website. Each agency's language access plan includes the following:
- The titles of translated documents and the languages in which they are available.
- Information about bilingual employees and the languages they speak.
- An internal monitoring plan.
- A description of how the agency intends to notify the public of the agency's offered language assistance services.
- A training plan for agency employees that contains annual training on the language access policies of the agency and training in how to provide language assistance services.
- Information about the agency's process for determining whether it will provide additional languages of translation beyond the top 12 languages required by the law.
- The identity of the agency's language access coordinator.