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ISSUE DATE: 08/2008

People with limited English language proficiency (LEP) often face unique challenges due to their inability or limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English. Lack of English proficiency can limit people’s access to public services programs to which they may be eligible, such as financial, medical, educational, health, and social services. Federal and state civil rights laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of national origin, as it affects people with limited English language proficiency.

All applicants for and participants of public assistance who have limited English language proficiency are entitled to FREE and TIMELY language assistance services. The burden of providing language assistance services must never be on the person with LEP. It is always on the agency or service provider.

The agencies must ensure that all clients with LEP are given adequate information and are able to understand the services and available benefits, and receive the benefits for which they are eligible. Counties must also ensure that clients with LEP are able to communicate the relevant circumstances of their situation to the county.

Each county is required to develop and implement an LEP plan. The LEP plan must include policies and procedures for providing language assistance, including a range of oral language assistance options, and in certain circumstances, translation of written materials. The plan should also include procedures for providing notice to people with LEP of the rights to language assistance FREE of charge and in a timely manner during all hours of the agency’s operation. Agency staff should follow the provisions of their county LEP plan for dealing with clients with LEP.

For more information about county LEP plans, contact the county LEP coordinator or county director.

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