Welfare Agency Is Sued Over Translation Service

Jennifer 8. Lee, New York Times, August 11, 2009

An advocacy group sued New York City’s welfare agency Tuesday morning, seeking to force it to comply with laws and policies that require translation and interpretation services for its clients.

A 2003 city law, the Equal Access to Human Services Act [pdf], passed after initial resistance from the Bloomberg administration,, gave city agencies five years to phase in comprehensive translation services, supplied by phone or in person. In addition, it required that city forms had to be made available in six main languages: Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian and Spanish. The deadline was February 2009.

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The advocacy group, Legal Services NYC, filed the lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on behalf of six clients whose primary language is other than English. Because of language barriers, the suit contends, they either lost benefits, were delayed in getting benefits, or were unable to appeal benefits determinations effectively.

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