NCLEJ Achieves Settlement Requiring Translation of California Food Stamp Forms

NCLEJ and its colleagues have achieved a settlement in a California state court case challenging the state Food Stamp agency’s failure to comply with Food Stamp provisions requiring translation of Food Stamp forms and an estimate of the low-income single language minority population. Under the terms of the settlement in Vu v. Mitchell, approved by the court in December 2006, the state will translate Food Stamp forms and materials (and new or revised forms) into 8 languages (Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Farsi, Hmong, Korean. Lao, and Tagalog). The state currently translates forms into Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Vietnamese, and will complete translation of any forms not yet translated into these languages. It will do the translations on a specific timetable according to whether the form is designated high priority, moderate, or low priority. Currently 69 forms have been identified for translation. The state will report monthly to petitioners on the translation progress and will notify counties monthly about new translations and instruct them to use the forms. The state will monitor counties’ use of translated forms through its civil rights review process, annual food stamp program survey, and state fair hearing process.

Each year for the term of the agreement, the state will estimate the language needs of the low-income population both participating and non-participating in the Food Stamp program, as required by federal Food Stamp law. If the estimate requires translation of materials into other languages, the state will do so.

The case was brought as a petition for a writ of mandamus under a state law provision authorizing an action to compel agency performance of an act specifically required by law. For further information contact Gina Mannix, National Center for Law and Economic Justice, mannix (at) Co-counsel are Jodie Berger, Legal Services of Northern California, jberger (at); Grace Galligher, Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations, ccwro (at); and Amy Lee, Bay Area Legal Aid, ALee (at)