In Arlington, the strategies used to provide language assistance depend greatly on the language spoken by the LEP applicant. The first preference is to provide language services through a bilingual staff member. Bilingual staff are predominately Spanish speaking, although there are some additional languages spoken by bilingual staff in reception and case aide positions. Spanish speaking individuals, the predominant language group of LEP applicants, typically do not bring anyone with them to the office to interpret. The agency is able to accommodate their language needs with Spanish speaking eligibility workers or bilingual case aides who are used to interpret.
However, there are very few bilingual staff that speak languages other than Spanish. As a result, the primary strategy for non-Spanish-speaking LEP individuals is, by default, reliance on the applicant to bring a friend or family member. In addition, a refugee resettlement agency person is sometimes brought in by the applicant to interpret. Although it is office policy that such informal interpreters should only be used when the eligibility worker is satisfied that the interpreter is English proficient and adequately understands assistance programs, workers reported that they typically use whoever the applicant brings with them. Virtually all workers included in our visits are aware of the availability of the private language line for language services, but concerns about the cost of these services generally discourage the use of this option to the point that it is virtually never utilized. Thus, Arlington’s language access approach is essentially a two-pronged strategy: (1) in-house bilingual staff for Spanish speakers and (2) friends, family and, to a lesser extent, refugee resettlement organizations for speakers of less common languages.