COST Act to expose the multi-billion dollar cost of multilingual services

ProEnglish believes the COST Act is an important bill that highlights why we need English as our official language

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WASHINGTON – Many people are unaware of the fact that English is not our official language or that the United States has no official language.

Although bills have been introduced year after year to make English our official language, Congress has failed to pass such legislation.

Even more people are unaware the federal government currently has no requirement to either track or reveal the costs associated with providing multilingual services.

In 2002, the Office of Budget Management estimated the federal government spent over $2 billion a year on translations and language assistance.

Since that study, the federal government has doubled in size and seems reasonable to assume translation costs have increased as well.

However, no one knows how much it actually costs taxpayers to provide multilingual services for any of its programs.

For example, just one federal program, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), provides translation services in 180 different languages.

sam gravesRep. Sam Graves (l), R-Mo., introduced HR 3188, the “Cost of Services and Translations Act” or the “COST Act,” on July 23 to amend title 31, United States Code, to end speculation on the current cost of multilingual services provided by the federal government.

HR 3188, co-sponsored by Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Steve King, R- Iowa, would create a new appendix within each federal agency’s annual performance and accountability report detailing any cost associated with providing multilingual services, such as verbal, written, or other services in languages other than English.

Under “Definitions,” HR 3188 states the term “multilingual services” include:

A) the services provided by interpreters hired by an agency;

B) the services provided by an agency associated with assisting agency employees or contractors learn a language other than English that result in additional expenses, wages or salaries, or changes to expenses, wages or salaries, for the agency employees or contractors;

C) agency preparation, translation, printing, or recordation of documents, records, Web sites, brochures, pamphlets, flyers, or other materials in a language other than English;

D) the services provided or performed for the federal government by agency employees or contractors that require speaking a language other than English that result in wage differentials or benefits provided by the agency; and

E) any other services provided or performed by an agency which utilize languages other than English and that incur additional costs to the agency.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and the one who decides if a bill will move past the committee stage. issued a prognosis of a 14 percent chance of getting past committee and a 3 percent chance of getting enacted.

From 2013-2015, only 15 percent of bills made it past committee and only 3 percent were enacted., the 10-year-old project of Civic Impulse, LLC and one of the world’s most visited government transparency websites, helps ordinary citizens find and track bills in Congress, track their representatives’ voting records, upcoming committee meetings and receive alerts by e-mail.

ProEnglish, the nation’s leading advocate of Official English, believes the COST Act is an important bill that highlights why we need English as our official language.

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