ALBANY (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state agencies now offer and explain government services in six languages other than English to better serve a growing immigrant population statewide, including a third of New York City's population.
His 26th executive order a year ago began the effort. It is aimed at 2.5 million New Yorkers considered to have limited proficiency in English. State agencies across New York are now equipped to provide free interpretation in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Italian, Korean and Haitian Creole.
"New York State government needs to be able to serve all of its residents no matter what language they speak," Cuomo said, saying the state needs to work for diverse cultures. "Today our agencies are ready to provide assistance in the foreign languages that are spoken by most non-English speakers in our state."
Immigrant leaders say the translation of essential documents and the ability to phone an interpreter is vital for the growing population.
"We believe that language will no longer be an impediment to access government resources for Asian Americans and immigrants throughout New York," said Steve Choi of the MinKwon Center, a Korean-American community group.
The U.S. Census reports that immigrants constitute 27 percent of the workforce and a language other than English is spoken in 30 percent of New York homes, most of them in New York City.
Immigrants account for more than a third of New York City's population and almost half the workforce.
The executive order requires that additional languages be considered every two years.
In 2009, a state law started requiring election material to be printed in Russian, in addition to Spanish, Chinese and Korean as required under the federal Voting Rights Act.