Hispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging

Hispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging
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A group of Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members asked Monday for Congress to fund coronavirus-response messaging in languages other than English.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders of both parties, the members asked "that any further legislation include robust funding for the development and dissemination of all official public health information, announcements, and proclamations in multiple languages on radio and television networks."

"Over the past several days, we have learned that our non-English speaking constituents have had limited access to reliable information concerning the COVID-19 response, including official documents, announcements and proclamations from local, state, and federal officials," the members wrote to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on Attacking the Affordable Care Act in the time of COVID-19 DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Struggling states warn coronavirus stimulus falls short Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTexas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Pelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing COVID-19, Bill Barr and the American authoritarian tradition MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House Trump signs T coronavirus relief package MORE (R-Calif.).

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"The lack of information and prevalence of disinformation have demonstrated the urgent need for announcements to be disseminated effectively and in a multi-lingual way," they added.

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The response to the coronavirus crisis, and its accompanying public service announcements, has for the most part been delivered in English by the federal government, despite the around 25 million Americans who are not proficient in the English language.

"In the absence of medical treatments or vaccines, we know that one of the few means to halt the spread of the virus is through preventive actions by the public," wrote the CHC members.

"Therefore, local, state, and federal public officials must communicate clear and concise messages that are targeted to local audiences, available in the media they regularly utilize, and in the languages they primarily speak at home," they added.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information is available online in Spanish and Simplified Chinese, but on a more limited basis than English-language information.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a language action plan that includes 19 widely-spoken languages, but it has not yet been fully activated to deal with the coronavirus response.

And non-English-language messaging has been slow to reach the communities it targets, increasing the chances of contagion among those populations.

In one case, the CHC's campaign arm, Bold PAC, made a federal one-page information sheet available in Spanish before the federal government published its own translation, a day after publishing the original in English.

In their letter, the CHC members ask for funding to be included not only to translate the materials, but to make them available through media consumed regularly by language-diverse populations.

"Reaching our non-English speaking communities will enable us to more effectively curb the spread of this virus," wrote the members.