Travis County commissioners voted unanimously to approve recommendations made by the language access planning team at a Dec. 10 meeting.
“This has been a lot of really great work and necessary work,” County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said.
The goal is to ensure residents have “meaningful access to Travis County services regardless of English proficiency,” according to the plan.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2017 nearly one third of Travis County residents spoke a language other than English—most commonly Spanish.
The county's language access plan was developed in accordance with a federal mandate, issued in 2000 by President George W. Bush, to improve access to services for people with limited English proficiency, which was intended to better implement part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Following two surveys of 22 county departments and the formation of three task groups, the language access planning team recommended that commissioners not only adopt the plan but also consider contracting out for interpreting and translating services across departments.
Additionally, the group recommended the county expand a six-month pilot program that began in April and used a software program to schedule in-person interpreters to additional departments.
Finally, the group recommended the court approve a pay differential for bilingual employees.
“County language services expenses should be an essential operating cost as a result of meeting federal requirements for language access,” according to a brief prepared by county staff.
Commissioners decided to ask county budget staff to prepare a cost estimate of this change and will decide whether to approve it at a later date.
Commissioner Jeff Travillion, who represents Precinct 1, also raised the prospect of starting an internship program that area college students could participate in to gain experience as interpreters.