County must develop language access plan
In County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s 2017 State of the County address, his theme was compassion and commitment. He came out strong in his support for refugees and immigrants, stating that “while ignorance, fear and xenophobia may dominate the toxic discourse of a vocal minority, in Erie County we will steer our own course.”
While I appreciate the strong statements, the county has not done enough to show compassion and commitment to our refugee, immigrant and native-born residents who need language access support.
Under federal civil rights law, people who speak English “less than very well” are eligible for language access services. This may be through written translation or interpretation, so they have meaningful access to federally funded and state services, including medical care, emergency services and social services.
Erie County continues to fall short of requirements and lacks a comprehensive Language Access Plan. The costs are high for the county’s 29,000 residents with limited English proficiency: less access to and lower quality educational, economic and health and safety outcomes.
Erie County must develop a language access plan. The county does not lack for supportive partners, including the New Americans Advisory Committee, resettlement agencies and community groups that can contribute to creating an effective plan. Creating a countywide language access plan will be a concrete example of compassion and commitment, and ensure that all residents have the ability to participate and contribute to the Buffalo renaissance.