Senate Must Address Lack of Resources on Language Access

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the House of Representatives passed the second stimulus bill focused on aiding families in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. The HEROES Act (also referred to as the CARES 2 Act) will continue to provide stimulus payments to eligible recipients. The Act also restores Medicaid benefits to COFA communities, the first legislation passed in the House of Representatives to address this matter in nearly 25 years. Unfortunately, the HEROES Act lacks inclusion of comprehensive translation and interpretation policies that are critical for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) communities. Below is a statement from Juliet K. Choi, APIAHF Executive Vice President:

“We applaud the House of Representatives for passing this critical bill that will help our nation’s most at-risk individuals and families during this global pandemic. Restoring access to Medicaid for Compacts of Free Association individuals is crucial in making sure everyone is part of the recovery process, as the virus does not discriminate based on citizenship status. Including COFA families is a historic step in the right direction.

In addition to restoring Medicaid for COFA communities, the HEROES Act requires data disaggregation on funding and employment and additional reporting on reducing disparities in health care related to COVID-19. Requiring data disaggregation is exceptionally important to better evaluate the effects of COVID-19 on hard to count communities like ours.

While we celebrate the inclusion of COFA Medicaid restoration and data disaggregation to the bill, we are disappointed that the HEROES Act does not include requirements, funding or oversight for comprehensive translation and interpretation policies. At a time when the entire country fears contracting COVID-19, 25 million Americans who are limited English proficient are undeservedly and unnecessarily experiencing an additional fear of being unable to communicate with health care professionals as they seek testing and treatment. Language access is absolutely critical, now more than ever, during this challenging time and can be the difference between life and death in many cases. We hope that the Senate will remedy this and continue to hold Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities in mind when considering relief for COVID-19.”

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The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.