BOSTON (WWLP) – According to the U.S Census Bureau, nearly a quarter of the people who live in Massachusetts speak another language other than English at home.
Navigating state agencies is not always an easy thing, and it can be more difficult if English is not your first language. A new bill on Beacon Hill is taking on language barriers in public facing state agencies.
The bill, an Act Relative to Language Access and Inclusion, was filed by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Carlos Gonzalez. If passed, it would phase in expanded language services like translation of vital documents and providing interpretation services over three years.
The bill would also create an advisory board. This advisory board would be made up of representatives from communities where English is limitedly spoken, the deaf and hard of hearing community, legal service providers and community groups.
The vital documents would be translated into everything from Arabic to Cape Verdean Creole to Russian and Korean.
“You know, for so many folks it’s really about not just the ability to get things for themselves, but to make sure that their families are taken care of and that their lives are stable,” said Saran Sekhavat, Political Director at MIRA Coalition.
After the first year, this legislation would cost the state an average annual rate of $1.2 million for a high volume agency. This bill was originally introduced in 2021 and received 25 co-sponsors across the House and Senate. It was also reported favorably out of committee.