This week, the Boston Foundation submitted testimony to the Legislature's Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight in support of S.2040 and H.3199, An Act Relative to Language Access and Inclusion, which would strengthen the state’s requirements for agencies to provide information in multiple languages for our increasingly language diverse population. Keith Mahoney, Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs, submitted the testimony, citing our longstanding research into Greater Boston's diversity and the needs of the region's immigrant population.
Dear Chairman Pacheco, Chairman Cabral, and Members of the Committee,
The Boston Foundation, respectfully submits the following letter in support of S.2040/H.3199, An Act Relative to Language Access and Inclusion, and strongly urges the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight to report the bill favorably.
The Language Access and Inclusion Act would standardize and enforce language access protocols and practices at public-facing state agencies. Nearly one in ten Massachusetts residents speak a primary language other than English, and the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare our failure to provide desperately needed information and public services to them. This bill would ensure non-English speaking residents have fair and equitable access to public health information, education, unemployment assistance, healthcare, housing, and other crucial services, especially those related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Greater Boston’s community foundation for more than 100 years, the Boston Foundation’s mission is to build and sustain a vital, prosperous city and region for all. As you may have seen, our research center, the Boston Indicators, released a report on The Changing Faces of Greater Boston, which tells the fascinating story of a great region’s evolving racial and ethnic diversity. After a decline during the mid-20th century, we’re now several decades into a new global wave of immigration, bringing Boston back to its roots as a city of immigrants. The percentage of foreign-born residents in Greater Boston in 2017 is the highest it has been since before the Great Depression and those immigrants comprise more than 90 percent of Greater Boston’s population growth since 1990.
Immigration is crucial to our economic success, and it our responsibility to create public policy that can harness the strengths of our immigrant population and integrate them into our community. The passage of An Act Relative to Language Access and Inclusion, would improve public safety, revenue, and economic opportunity. During this last year, we have seen the impact of a health and economic crisis. We have seen that access to resources and information effects lives. This measure will help our community rebuild our economy and our public safety.
Non-English-speaking residents of Massachusetts deserve to be treated with the respect, dignity, and equality that they are entitled to. As one of the most linguistically diverse states within our nation, we strongly urge you to issue a favorable report for S.2040/H.3199, An Act Relative to Language Access and Inclusion.
Among the tools the Boston Foundation uses to support the work of our nonprofit partners and achieve our mission of “building and sustaining a vital, prosperous city and region, where justice and opportunity are extended to everyone” is advocacy for public policy. As part of that advocacy work, Boston Foundation representatives occasionally testify on Beacon Hill and elsewhere in support of local initiatives. Our occasional “TBF Policy Update” posts share our work in public affairs, with updates, letters and relevant testimony.