WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29) announces the reintroduction of two bills for Financial Literacy Month: the Community Finance Language Inclusion Act and the Multilingual Financial Literacy Act. Both bills are supported by the National Consumer Law Center and aim to strengthen and expand financial literacy for limited English proficiency individuals.
The Community Finance Language Inclusion Act would expand the official definition of “technical assistance” within the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund to include outreach materials in additional languages other than English. The CDFI Fund is overseen by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and is responsible for helping CDFIs promote access to financial capital and economic growth in urban and low-income communities. The financial services industry is largely centered on serving English-speaking individuals, but the CDFI Fund technical assistance program represents an excellent avenue for increasing language access in community-serving financial institutions.
The Multilingual Financial Literacy Act would direct the Financial Literacy Education Commission (FLEC) to carry out a study on the impact of language barriers on financial health. This bill has massive national implications as the United States is home to more than 380 spoken languages, and nearly nine percent of individuals speak English “less than very well.” FLEC would issue a report with recommendations on how to address these barriers, with the goal of achieving better financial inclusion for individuals with limited English proficiency. It would also require FLEC to coordinate and promote efforts of Federal agencies to make financial literacy and education resources, including websites and hotlines, available in at least eight of the most commonly spoken languages in the United States.
“Ensuring everyone in the United States has the opportunity to thrive financially is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do as more than 26 million people across our country have limited English proficiency (LEP),” said Congresswoman Garcia. “These individuals are eagerly contributing to our economy but face rigid language barriers on their path to financial health and freedom. Removing these hurdles will create a more inclusive financial industry that will increase their chance of achieving financial health while also strengthening our nation’s robust economy.”
“I look forward to continued collaboration with UnidosUS, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), Consumer Action, and Americans for Financial Reform for the Community Finance Language Inclusion Act. Additionally, I am proud to also name Catholic Charities, Coalition of Adult Basic Education (COABE), and Latinos for Education as endorsements for the Multilingual Financial Literacy Act. Their support will bolster the future of financial literacy for all, especially those with limited English proficiency,” said Congresswoman Garcia.
The support from the National Consumer Law Center remarks, “Consumers with limited English proficiency face unique and often significant challenges when interacting with the financial system. Borrowers often will need language assistance from their children or other family members and may enter into transactions without any written materials they can fully comprehend,” said Alys Cohen, senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “Rep. Garcia’s bills will help assess the impact of limited language access in the financial market and also will assist CDFIs in better reaching consumers with limited English proficiency, promoting access and equity.”
The Community Finance Language Inclusion Act and the Multilingual Financial Literacy Act would support the over 65 million people nation-wide who speak a language other than English at home and more that 26 million of those individuals have limited English proficiency. This is one of many ways Congress can act to improve the economic status of diverse communities.
The Community Finance Language Inclusion Act is cosponsored by: Rep. Beatty (OH-3), Rep. Nickel (NC-13), Rep. Green (TX-9), and Rep. Vargas (CA-52)
The Multilingual Financial Literacy Act is cosponsored by: Rep. Beatty (OH-3), Rep. Nickel (NC-13), Rep. Green (TX-9), and Rep. Vargas (CA-52)