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Lawmakers: Coronavirus guidelines aren’t being translated into Spanish, other languages

“Failing to immediately provide guidance in Spanish and other languages will jeopardize the health, safety, and economic stability of millions across this country,” members of Congress tell the White House.

People line up to get a test at Elmhurst Hospital due to coronavirus outbreak on March 24, 2020 in Queens, New York, United States.
U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and other congressmen want federal agencies to translate coronavirus information into Spanish and other languages.
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Federal agencies charged with delivering aid and health guidelines related to the coronavirus are not translating their materials into languages other than English fast enough, according to a congressional letter sent to the White House on Friday.

The letter — co-written by Reps. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., and Donna Shalala, D-Fla., and co-sponsored by more than 60 other members of Congress — calls on the Trump administration and more than a dozen federal agencies to immediately provide all relevant materials on the pandemic in Spanish and other languages.

“As a matter of public health and safety for all, English-language proficiency should not serve as a barrier to obtain or distribute vital information from the federal government,” the letter reads. “Failing to immediately provide guidance in Spanish and other languages will jeopardize the health, safety, and economic stability of millions across this country.”

Agencies named in the letter include the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Small Business Administration and the IRS.

A White House representative could not be reached for comment.

Census figures show more than 65 million people in the United States speak a language other than English at home. About 25 million people in the country did not speak English proficiently in 2015, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a version of its website in Spanish and “simplified” Chinese. It has also translated information about the coronavirus into dozens of languages during the past couple of weeks.

The White House was criticized in late March for not providing a translated version of guidelines asking Americans to stay at home and avoid crowds of 10 or more people until it was pressured to do so by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.