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Ruiz, Pou, Cruz-Perez Bill to Improve Language Accessibility Across State Departments Passes Senate

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Trenton – To better serve New Jersey’s growing and diverse population, today the Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz, Senator Nellie Pou and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez which would require state forms and notices be translated into the fifteen most used languages.

“New Jersey is 2nd in the nation in terms of people who speak a language other than English at home. It is to everyone’s benefit that all residents are kept informed and are aware of services offered by the state regardless of what language they speak,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This legislation takes a slow and deliberate approach to improving the state’s language access by gradually requiring state agencies to begin offering translations in five additional languages each year over the span of the three-year rollout. When people are in need, and especially in crisis, they should be able to connect to the resources available to them.”

The bill, S-2459, would require state agencies to translate forms, privacy protections, and notices of rights in the top five most used languages by the end of the first year, then add an additional five languages by the end of the second year and add the five remaining languages in the third year after implementation.

“Dealing with state agencies and formal applications can be confusing even for English speakers. It becomes that much more challenging when complicated information is presented in a language you don’t know well,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen), chair of the Legislative Latino Caucus. “This legislation will ensure residents have access to vital documents in their first language, so they don’t have to rely on others to connect them to the services they need.”

The bill would also give departments the option to provide interpretation services where appropriate, which would be widely advertised to ensure residents are aware such assistance exists.

“Translating for your parents is simply a part of life for many first generation children, but as one of the most diverse states in the country our residents deserve better,” said Senator Cruz-Perez. “This legislation will help to ensure we aren’t relying on kids to connect families to life-saving resources.”

New Jersey would join California, D.C., Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New York State and 40 other jurisdictions that have established language access laws.

The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 23-13.