WATCH: Sen. Ossoff Secures Commitment from USDA Official to Improve Access to Affordable Housing for Georgians Facing Language Barriers

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is working to improve access to affordable housing for Georgians in rural areas whose primary language is not English.

Sen. Ossoff secured a commitment from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Rural Development, Xochitl Torres Small, to help Georgians experiencing language barriers navigate the housing market and system, improving their access to affordable housing.

Sen. Ossoff also secured commitment from Under Secretary Torres Small to visit Georgia and sit down with leaders from communities who are facing language hurdles when approaching the housing system.

Sen. Ossoff continues his push to make government services available in more languages so that all Georgians can access vital resources like affordable housing.

In February, Sen. Ossoff led a letter calling U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to direct Federal agencies to update their Language Access Plans, helping ensure that people whose primary language is not English can access critical information and resources in their preferred language.

Click here to watch Sen. Ossoff’s line of questioning:

Please find a transcript of the exchange below:

SEN. OSSOFF: “Under Secretary Torres Small, welcome. It’s a delight to see you. I wish that we could meet. I hope we will soon. And thank you for joining today to discuss these important issues.

“I want to begin on the subject of language access and the housing market. It’s a big issue in rural communities in my state. I hear about it pretty regularly, for example, from Latino constituents, Asian-American constituents, just to give you a sense. For example, in Stewart County, Georgia, over 15% of the population face language barriers. And so what I want to ask you is, first of all, to comment on the steps that you intend to take, and are taking, to help Americans who face language barriers to navigate the housing market and the housing system, and commit to working with my office, and on a future visit to Georgia, sitting down with leaders in the Latino community, the Asian American community, other communities facing language barriers, to discuss what steps we can take together to help ensure all Americans can access safe, affordable housing.

UNDER SECRETARY TORRES SMALL: “Thank you Senator Ossoff for your question and for looking at a truly important issue, which is working with people in all of rural development and the work that we do.

“Rural housing is where we have the most interaction with the final recipient of the services that we get to provide. And it’s so crucial that there’s a real partnership there. And the most fundamental piece of that is language, is communication. I was recently in Arizona, where this issue came up, because, of course, Spanish language and the accessibility there is crucial.

“So we do have the Civil Rights Office that helps to make sure that the documents are translated, and that there is also translation services available, but also working to make sure that we have technical assistance from our world development employees so that they can be there. Because the written language is one thing, but when you look at a 504 repair loan, for example, and you’re working with an elderly woman who may only speak Spanish and makes less than $15,000 a year, sometimes you also just need someone to sit down and have a conversation with her. And the ability to do that reinforces how crucial having staff on the ground that are from those communities to be able to provide that service. 

“So certainly appreciate your comment about the importance of language accessibility, and I would love to visit Georgia to speak with stakeholders about that.”

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