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                       Office of the Press Secretary
                           (Cartagena, Colombia)

For Immediate Release August 30, 2000


Today, I commend the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for being the first federal agency to respond to Executive Order 13166 which will help people with limited English proficiency (LEP) access federal and federally funded services. The HHS policy guidance issued today will assist health and social service providers to ensure that LEP individuals can access critical health and social services and will assist our efforts to eliminate health disparities between LEP and English-speaking individuals. The guidance outlines the legal responsibilities of providers who assist people with limited English proficiency and receive federal financial assistance from HHS, and provides a flexible roadmap to assist those providers in their efforts to meet the language needs of the nation's increasingly diverse population.

On August 11, 2000, I issued Executive Order 13166, which directed federal agencies, by December 11, 2000, to establish written policies on the language-accessibility of their programs and the programs of those who receive federal funds. Federal agencies and recipients of federal financial assistance must take reasonable steps to ensure that persons with limited English proficiency can meaningfully access their programs.

Language barriers are preventing the federal government and recipients of federal financial assistance from effectively serving a large number of people in this country who are eligible to participate in their programs. Failure to systematically confront language barriers can lead to unequal access to federal benefits based on national origin and can harm the mission of federal agencies. Breaking down these barriers will allow individuals with limited English proficiency to fully participate in American society.