Senate Majority Leader’s Bill Advances as Most Expansive Language Access Legislation in the Nation

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Trenton – To better prepare state departments and offices to serve New Jersey’s diverse population, today the Senate State Government Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz which would require state forms and notices be translated into the fifteen most used languages.

 

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, one in four homes in New Jersey speak a language other than English and about one in eight residents speak English with less than ‘very well’ proficiency,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This legislation aims to remove the language barrier faced by so many of our communities around New Jersey by ensuring all of our state entities are prepared to assist our residents regardless of what language they speak. When people are in need, and especially in crisis, they should be able to connect to the resources available to them. This was highlighted all the more during the pandemic where we saw various obstacles preventing individuals from accessing real time government information and routine government services.”

 

The bill, S-2459, would require state agencies to translate forms, privacy protections, and notices of rights in the top 10 most used languages by the end of the first year and then add an additional 5 languages by the end of the second year after implementation.

 

The bill would also require interpretation services be provided where appropriate, which would be widely advertised to ensure residents are aware such assistance exists.

 

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 committee by a vote of 4-1.