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New York City - Lawsuit Filed Against NYC For Lack Of English Translators At Welfare Offices

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New York Times: cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/welfare-agency-is-sued-over-translation-service/

New York City - Legal Services NYC today filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court on behalf of low-income New Yorkers who have been denied access to vital benefits, such as Food Stamps and Medicaid, solely because they cannot communicate in English, despite a city law requiring the Human Resources Administration (HRA) to provide translation and interpretation services to these individuals. The lawsuit alleges widespread civil rights violations at HRA centers across the five boroughs.

Five years ago, the New York City Council passed The Equal Access to Human Services Act of 2003 (Local Law 73), which mandates the provision of translation and interpretation services at HRA centers. Legal Services NYC has actively monitored HRA's compliance with this law over the past five years, documenting the way in which limited English proficient (LEP) clients are routinely denied services at their HRA centers while applying for benefits or while simply attempting to maintain them.
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"Five years ago Mayor Bloomberg proudly signed a landmark civil rights law ensuring equal access to all HRA services. Today, despite a significant investment of taxpayer dollars, HRA is still routinely denying vital services to the most vulnerable New Yorkers in flagrant violation of law. Enough is enough. We call on HRA to immediately remedy its widespread discriminatory treatment of limited English proficient New Yorkers," said Amy Taylor, Language Access Project Coordinator at Legal Services NYC.

"Local Law 73 is the result of modern-day civil rights legislation, and New York's language access laws are a model to localities across the nation. The City's failure to provide the most basic services to all New Yorkers is not only discriminatory and illegal but a stain on our reputation as an international destination and capital of the world. We must treat all New Yorkers with the dignity and respect they deserve," said New York City Council Member John C. Liu, primary sponsor of The Equal Access to Human Services Act of 2003.

"In order to best serve the richly diverse population of New York City, it is vital that appropriate translation services are offered to all people when accessing public benefits. This lawsuit serves as an important reminder to the challenges many New Yorkers face when trying to access assistance," said New York City Council Member Annabel Palma.

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