The Application Process For TANF, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Multiple Language Access Strategies: Local Level Examples


Based on this study of six sites, it seems clear that there is no single language-access strategy that is appropriate for every program or each stage in the application process, let alone for all language groups. As a result, localities in our study tend to employ several language access strategies simultaneously. The design and implementation of these multiple local language access strategies are driven by a complex interplay of factors related to:

  • Population — the size of the total local LEP population,
  • Caseload characteristics — the LEP share of the total applicant pool served,
  • Language diversity — the number and types of languages spoken by LEP applicants,
  • Intake and application staffing patterns — the number and types of staff encountered during the application process, and
  • Agency and community resources — the amount of financial and human resources available to the agency to address language needs.

Developing strategies that take into account these factors is challenging because the size, composition, and distribution of immigrant populations are often moving targets.

Since a single language access strategy cannot fulfill all language needs, one way to conceptualize language access approaches at the local level is in terms of how quickly the agency responsible for determining eligibility must turn to LEP applicants to devise their own interpreters. Among our sites, some agencies place more responsibility for successful communication on LEP applicants, while others shoulder more of the burden themselves. In practice, this typically translates into the agency assuming responsibility for the first or primary language access strategy but second or third alternatives may rely on LEP applicants themselves and/or on family members or community-based organizations.

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