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Baldwin, Colleagues Introduce Coronavirus Language Access Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined her colleagues to introduce the Coronavirus Language Access Act, which expands access to coronavirus-related resources by increasing language access services and supporting culturally appropriate COVID-19 response programs to help older Americans, those who have limited English proficiency (LEP), and people with disabilities.

“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated many obstacles and disparities in our health care system, including language barriers,” said Senator Baldwin. “Our legislation will require the federal government to deploy culturally-appropriate coronavirus-related information and resources that are accessible for everyone, regardless of their primary language.”

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 individuals, their work on the front lines of the pandemic response leaves them more vulnerable and subject to greater risks of contracting COVID-19.

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 seven 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 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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.


“We cannot expect to end this pandemic if 25 million American s who are Limited English Proficient cannot meaningfully communicate with their health care provider or receive lifesaving public health information about COVID-19,” said Juliet K. Choi, Executive Vice President at the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “This badly-needed legislation would address language barriers and systemic inequities by ensuring federal agencies provide translation and interpretation services, as well as provide funding to state health departments and community based organizations. We especially applaud the leadership of Senators Hirono, Casey and Harris for championing this Coronavirus Language Access Act.”

“UnidosUS is proud to support the Coronavirus Language Access Act and we thank Sens. Hirono, Casey, and Harris for their leadership in introducing this vital health equity legislation. The bill makes critical investments, including by targeting resources to trusted community-based organizations which sensitively and effectively provide services in their diverse communities. Language access is an issue that has long been a priority for UnidosUS and during a pandemic it is particularly important that the tens of millions of Americans who speak a language other than English have the information and resources they need to stay safe and healthy,” said Eric Rodriguez, Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, UnidosUS.

“Older adults who are immigrants have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the hardest to reach. This legislation takes important and practical steps to ensure that everyone in our communities has the vital information and resources we all need to protect ourselves and our families,” said Kevin Prindiville, Executive Director of Justice in Aging.

“DREDF knows that LEP communities have faced many of the same communication and information barriers that have confronted Deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and other persons with disabilities seeking COVID-19 testing and treatment. Every person in our country has been affected by this virus and we must give everyone the equal chance to understand how to avoid, fight, and recover physically and economically from it,” said Silvia Yee, senior staff attorney at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF).

The Coronavirus Language Access Act is supported by more than 160 organizations, including the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum; Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC; UnidosUS; NAACP; National Immigration Law Center (NILC); Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF); Families USA; Justice in Aging National Association of State Long Term Care Ombudsman Programs; GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Tahirih Justice Center, AlohaCare, Hawaii Health & Harm Reduction Center, Hep Free Hawaii, Lanai Community Health Center, Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc., NH&PI Hawaii COVID19 3R Team, Papa Ola Lokahi, and The Legal Clinic Hawaii. Click here to see the full list of supporting organizations.

The bill was led by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Bob Casey (D-PA). The bill was also cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mark Warner (D-VA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).