Memo for fiscal year 2022, updated 2021-02-15

[Archived] Question # 05: What would be the cost and benefits associated with creating a multi-lingual office or division of immigration affairs?


What would be the cost and benefits associated with creating a multi-lingual office or division of immigration affairs? (Councilman Aguirre)


The City of Alexandria started a Multi-cultural Services Initiative in 2001/2002 that was housed in the Department of Human Services (now DCHS). The focus at the time was on building relationships between the City of Alexandria and the residents of the Arlandria community. It was initially staffed with one person titled Multi-Cultural Services Coordinator (MSC). Staff attended regular community events and offered outreach and education on all City services. Additionally, the staff person assumed supervision over the Hispanic Education and Outreach Program (HEOP) that provided ELL and other acculturalization classes to approximately 400 adult participants annually. The MSC also ensured all City departments had Language Access Plans that complied with Title VI. In 2009, during the recession, the HEOP program was cut out of the budget. The MSC staff person was redeployed to another role in the overall City government.

The Race and Social Equity Officer position in the City Manager’s office approved in the FY 2020 budget was filled in February 2020. The focus of the position is to collaborate with City departments to evaluate policies, practice, and procedures for institutional and systemic bias that may benefit some and not others. Additionally, the position is charged with coordinating with underrepresented groups of population who have not traditionally been involved in government decision making, including non-English speakers and immigrant communities. The goal is to reduce and eliminate disparities and inequities experienced by all residents, especially those in communities of color and other groups who have been historically and systemically marginalized and to ensure current polices are revisited regularly to ensure all Alexandria residents are treated equitably. The benefits of engaging with historically marginalized communities will be in gathering more diverse input around polices that closely impact the livelihood of those groups of population as well as interaction within the larger Alexandria community.

Recently, the Race and Social Equity Officer in collaboration with other City staff completed an assessment of City government language access and provided that assessment to the City Manager that assessment is now under review to determine next steps. This assessment revealed gaps in service delivery and Citywide coordination on language needs and provisions. Some of the primary recommendations to strengthen the initiative include regular surveying of language access usage and needs by departments, creation of a language access reporting tool, and addition of a City-wide Language Access lead position to coordinate the efforts recommended in the assessment. The FY 2022 proposed budget does not create a new language access position whose sole duties would be language access coordination. However, it does fund an additional staff person to continue to work with the Race and Social Equity Officer, with one of the key responsibilities of that role being expanding language access and relationships to communities that need it the most.

If there was interest in establishing a multi-lingual FTE that handles one-to-one outreach with individuals and facilitates connection to services meeting their needs and coordinates multi-lingual services across all departments, then additional staffing would need to be considered. This position could fall under the work of the race and social equity efforts to ensure City-wide implementation and execution in policy and practice. Such a position(s) could also be located in DCHS as was the original multi-cultural services coordinator. It is estimated that each additional FTE related to this effort would cost approximately $93,200 annually (salary and benefits) based on job specifications and duties.

All Alexandria, the resolution adopted by the Alexandria City Council in February 2021 committing to race and social equity, specifically highlights the need for expanded language access and implementation of culturally relevant strategies and tactics to do so. This resolution highlights the City’s continued work towards reducing and eliminating disparities in community outcomes and service provision, especially for Black, Indigenous, People of Color and other historically marginalized groups.

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