City reaches out to native Spanish speakers

Translation of documents makes programs, assistance more accessible 

COVINGTON, Ky. – To make it easier for residents who aren’t fully fluent in English to navigate programs for homeowners, the City of Covington is making documents such as applications, guidelines, and fliers available in the Spanish language.

So far, documents related to the Homebuyer Assistance, Homeowner Repair, and Lead Abatement programs have been translated, with more on the way.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” said Jeremy Wallace, the City’s Federal Grants Manager.

The overdue move is part of the response to the growth in the City’s Hispanic population, as explained in this article last year about THE COV'S CHANGING FACE.

The translated documents will remove a potential barrier toward full participation in Covington’s environment, said Reid Yearwood, executive director of the Esperanza Latino Center, a non-profit resource center on Pike Street.

“Anything that we can do to make (this community) aware of all the City’s programs, initiatives, grants, and opportunities, and let them know that they don’t have to overcome obstacles to understand them, is tremendous,” Yearwood said. “The City of Covington does such an excellent job when it comes to being inclusive and making sure that the community is welcome.”

Wallace said the translated materials reflect a priority of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in its fair housing plans and has been on the City’s radar for some time.

Until recently, there was no mandate to provide language translations for the documents because there was no Census evidence that the City had met either of the HUD markers -- more than 5 percent of the city’s population or 1,000 people who weren’t fully fluent in English.

But that changed with the 2020 Census.

“This is the first time we’ve exceeded the threshold,” Wallace said. “We exceeded the 1,000 number of people who weren’t fully fluent in English, and frankly that count is probably low. You can fairly assume that the Census probably isn’t capturing the full number of Spanish-speaking people.”

Wallace said the City started translation efforts with these particular documents for a reason.

“Our homebuyer program and home repair program are two programs that we’ll most likely have an individual come to the City for assistance who is not fully fluent in English,” he said.

Documents are available on the City’s website on its FEDERAL GRANTS/HOUSING INITIATIVES page, and hard copies will be available at Esperanza, Northern Kentucky Legal Aid, the Covington branch of the Kenton County Public Library, and other agencies and locations.

Yearwood called the effort “a good start” and said the Center will promote and explain the documents. “We have such a large network now that we know we can get these in front of a lot of eyes,” he said.

Faustina Mulnik, an intern with the City’s Read Ready Covington program, translated the documents and said each piece took her a couple of hours. A Spanish major at Northern Kentucky University, Mulnik’s internship ends in May.

John Hammons, the City’s CDBG/HOME program coordinator, said the City hoped to use funds through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to expand its efforts.

“We’re a limited staff and it’s fortunate that we have people to help us translate to serve underserved populations,” said Hammons. “We owe it to them. … It’s important to have information available in Spanish so people don’t miss out on opportunities because of a language barrier. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what we should have been doing.”

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