August 13, 2020

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Coronavirus Language Access Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) cosponsored legislation introduced by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to expand access to coronavirus-related resources. The Coronavirus Language Access Act increases language access services and supports culturally appropriate COVID-19 response programs to help older Americans, those who have limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities.

The pandemic has magnified language access issues and disparities in health care, as more than 25 million people in the United States have limited English proficiency—15 percent of whom are age 65 or older. For many limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, their work on the front lines of the pandemic response leaves them more vulnerable and subject to greater risks of contracting COVID-19.

“For too many Nevadans coronavirus-related resources like testing information, and basic updates about how to keep families safe aren’t available in their native languages. I’m proud to cosponsor legislation that will require federal agencies to provide accessible, translated materials for millions of hardworking Americans with disabilities or limited English proficiency, many of whom are frontline workers. Every Nevadan should be able to easily access everything from coronavirus prevention tips to information about relief programs.”

In addition to Senators Cortez Masto, Hirono, Casey, and Harris, the bill was also cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

BACKGROUND:

The Coronavirus Language Access Act would:

  • Require federal agencies receiving COVID-19 funding to provide translated materials for COVID-19-related programs and opportunities within 7 business days after the English version is available.
  • Require federal agencies receiving COVID-19 funding to provide oral language assistance services for COVID-19-related programs and opportunities.
  • Require the head of every federal agency affected by the bill to submit a report about its compliance with the requirements of the bill to the relevant congressional Committees.
  • Provide $200 million for coronavirus-related language access services – $150 million of which must be for state (including DC), Tribal, and territorial health departments and community-based organizations to support culturally appropriate coronavirus response programs.
  • Require CDC to create a coronavirus informational hotline with trained interpreters that provides COVID-19 information to the public.
  • Require CDC to provide translated materials relating to COVID-19 screening, testing, treatment, and educational information to state (including DC), Tribal, and territorial agencies.
  • Provide $20 million to states for Area Agencies on Aging and $10 million to states for Statewide Independent Living Councils to support older LEP individuals and LEP individuals with disabilities, respectively, in accessing COVID-19 information through partnerships with community-based organizations

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