[lg policy] County Executive Bellone Signs Executive Order Ensuring Language Access for All Suffolk County Residents

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 15 15:54:00 UTC 2012

County Executive Bellone Signs Executive Order Ensuring Language
Access for All Suffolk County Residents

County Executive Bellone Signs Executive Order Ensuring Language
Access for All Suffolk County Residents; Advocates Praise Executive
Order that Aligns Suffolk County with Policies Implemented by Governor

(Hauppauge, N.Y.) - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed an
Executive Order guaranteeing translation and interpretation services
to all limited-English proficient (LEP) residents in their
interactions with County Government. This policy marks a major step
towards ensuring good government in Suffolk County.  County Executive
Bellone noted that ensuring all residents are able to communicate with
government has been highlighted by the necessity of sharing vital
public safety information related to Superstorm Sandy, including the
approximately 120,000 county residents with limited ability to read,
write, or speak English.

“Suffolk County government is here to serve all our residents,” said
Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “Superstorm Sandy highlights the
need to have a government where all residents have equal access to
both vital public safety information and programs and services. We
have drawn lessons from Governor Cuomo who has successfully
implemented this policy statewide.”

In the past, the lack of interpretation and translation services in
Suffolk County has prevented LEP residents from obtaining vital
information and services in times of crisis. Improved language access
services will ensure that residents can communicate with authorities
during emergencies like Sandy and that residents report crimes like
domestic violence without fear of being understood at police

Based on Census data, the services will be provided in Italian,
Chinese, Spanish, Polish, French Creole, and Portuguese. Suffolk
County has identified a number of federal grants in order to implement
the language access policy at no cost to taxpayers.  The Executive
Order aligns Suffolk County with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive
Order announced in October, 2011 and implemented in October, 2012 that
guaranteed such language access services to New Yorkers in State
offices.  Similar to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order, the policy will
be fully implemented within 365 days.

“This is an enormous victory for all of Suffolk County,” Daniel
Altschuler, coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table
said. “Following Superstorm Sandy, the County Executive has wisely
recognized that providing language access services is an essential
good government tool; we applaud the County Executive for taking this
step to meet the needs of 120,000 limited-English proficient Suffolk
County residents.”

“For far too long, limited English proficient people living in Suffolk
County have faced unequal treatment when trying to access vital
services such as the police, healthcare, courts and social services,”
Cheryl Keshner, Coordinator of the Long Island Language Advocates
Coalition said. “We applaud County Executive Bellone for having the
courage and the vision to enact this order, particularly during a time
of crisis when effective communication is essential to protecting all
members of our communities.

This Order will bring significant public safety gains to the county
and improve all agencies’ ability to interact with Suffolk’s diverse
population.  Under the provisions of the Order, all county agencies

    Translate essential public documents and forms into the top six
languages spoken by LEP residents of Suffolk County;
    Provide interpretation services to all LEP Suffolk residents;
    Designate a language access coordinator and draft plans for
complying with this Executive Order in the next 90 days; and
    Provide the County Executive’s office with annual reports
detailing their compliance with the Executive Order.

This executive order will bring the county into compliance with Title
VI of the Civil Rights Act—which prohibits discrimination based on
one’s language—and ensures consistency between county, state, and
federal policy.

“For too long people like my family were unable to get the necessary
services from our county simply because they didn’t speak English,”
Elizabeth Bonillia, a member of NY Communities for Change and a
Central Islip resident, said.  “Now everyone in the county finally has
access to the government services they deserve.”

“Superstorm Sandy is the most recent example of why adequate
communication between governments and constituents is so important,”
Theo Oshiro, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York, said. “With
the County Executive’s Order, Suffolk County becomes part of a growing
statewide movement towards equal access, increased fairness, and
increased public safety for all community members regardless of the
language they speak. Make the Road New York applauds County Executive
Bellone’s leadership with the signing of this historic Executive

“This Executive Order is a bold new direction for Suffolk County, and
a bellwether for suburban communities like it around the country,”
Nisha Agarwal, Deputy Director of the Center for Popular Democracy,
said. “Today, Suffolk establishes itself as a leader in promoting
immigrant inclusion and integration, and its language access policy is
a model for other rapidly diversifying communities nationally.”

“As one of very few counties in the country with this kind of policy,
Suffolk has asserted itself as a leader in civil rights,” Katherine
Terenzi, Taconic Policy Fellow at New York Lawyers for the Public
Interest, said. “With this Order, County Executive Bellone has made it
possible for all Suffolk residents, regardless of the languages they
speak, to access vital government services, fully participate in the
economy, and fulfill their civic duties.”

“I applaud Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone for signing the
Executive Order on language access,” Martha Maffei, Executive Director
of Services for the Advancement of Women (SEPA Mujer) said. “We
believe it is very important for our immigrant community to be able to
report crimes and have access to the services they need without facing
the barrier of language.  Having access to language is crucial to our
members who are victims of domestic violence and who need to report
these crimes for their safety and the safety of their children.  It
also allows us to protect children from being used as interpreters and
having to listen to their parents’ problem.”

County Executive Bellone has worked with a number of organizations to
craft this policy to ensure improved language access services,
including the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, the Long Island
Language Advocates Coalition, Make the Road New York, New York
Communities for Change, SEPA Mujer, New York Lawyers for the Public
Interest, the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, and the Center for
Popular Democracy.


H. Lee Dennison Building
100 Veterans Memorial Highway
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, New York 11788-0099
(631) 853-4000


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