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LIHEAP IM 2001-2 Policy Guidance on Serving Persons with Limited English Proficiency

Special Topics

Published: October 10, 2000
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Information Memorandums (IM)



SUBJECT:       Policy Guidance on Serving Persons with Limited English Proficiency

RELATED REFERENCES:    Low Income Home Energy Assistance Act, Title XXVI  of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, Public Law 97-35, as amended (42 U.S.C. 8621 et seq.); Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq. and its implementing regulation at 45 C.F.R. Part 80; and Guidance on the Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination As It Affects Persons with Limited English Proficiency, as published in the Federal
Register on August 30, 2000 (65 FR pages 52672-52774).

PURPOSE:       To clarify the responsibilities of providers of health and social services who receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities to persons with limited English proficiency.

BACKGROUND:    Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq.) and its implementing regulation at 45 C.F.R. Part 80 provides that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin under any program or activity that received Federal financial assistance. In Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974), the Supreme Court recognized that recipients of Federal financial assistance have an affirmative responsibility, pursuant to Title VI, to provide persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) with meaningful opportunity to participate in public programs.

CONTENT:       On August 30, 2000, the Office for Civil  Rights within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued policy guidance concerning the Title VI prohibition against national origin discrimination as it affects Limited English Proficient (LEP) persons.  Specifically, the guidance clarifies how this prohibition applies to health and social service providers who receive Federal financial assistance from HHS (65 FR pages 52672-52774).  It is consistent with a Department of Justice directive noting that recipient/covered entities have an obligation pursuant to Title VI's prohibition against national origin discrimination to provide oral and written language assistance to LEP persons.

This policy guidance took effect immediately upon publication in the Federal Register, but the Department is providing an opportunity to comment. All comments must be received by October 30, 2000, and should be addressed to:
                     Ms. Carole Brown
                     Office for Civil Rights
                     Room 506F
                     U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
                     200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
                     Washington, D.C.  20201

Comments may also be submitted by e-mail at: lepcoms@os.dhhs.gov

All entities that receive Federal financial assistance from HHS, either directly or indirectly, through a grant, contract or subcontract, are covered by this policy guidance.  This includes LIHEAP grantees, subgrantees and contractors.

States and many other providers of health and social services have legal obligations to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulation.  The policy guidance reiterates HHS' longstanding position that in order to avoid discrimination against LEP persons on grounds of national origin, health and social service providers must take adequate steps to ensure that such persons receive free of charge the language assistance necessary to afford them meaningful access to the services.  The guidance also clarifies for health and social service providers, and members of the public, that a recipient or covered entity must assess what steps it can take to ensure that eligible LEP persons have meaningful access to programs and services.

This guidance also provides examples of policies and practices that the Office for Civil Rights,HHS, would find in violation of Title VI, and sets out the policies, procedures and other steps that recipients can take to ensure meaningful access to their programs by LEP persons.  Appendix A to the; guidance is a series of questions and answers that provides a useful summary of a number of the major aspects of the guidance.

Expenses incurred in the provision of LEP services to LIHEAP recipients or potential recipients may be covered with LIHEAP funds.  These expenses may be subject to the 10 percent cap that applies to planning and administrative costs, if the underlying activity is administrative in nature.

ATTACHMENTS:   (1)  List of Regional Managers in the Office for Civil Rights, DHHS.

                             (2)  Guidance on the Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination As It Affects Persons With Limited English Proficiency, including Appendix A & B (65 FR 52672-52774, dated August 30, 2000).

INQUIRIES TO:  Inquiries should be directed to the Regional Managers in the Office for Civil Rights, DHHS.

                                        or to:

               Janet M. Fox, Director
               Division of Energy Assistance
               Office of Community Services, ACF, HHS
               370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W.
               Washington, D.C.  20447
               Telephone:  (202) 401-9351
               Fax:  (202) 401-5718

                                   Janet M. Fox
                                   Division of Energy Assistance
                                   Office of Community Services


Last Reviewed: June 14, 2019