MCALLEN, Texas – Two members of Congress from South Texas are urging congressional leaders to provide more official information and education about the coronavirus in Spanish.

U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela are among 15 representatives – all Latinos/Latinas – to write to to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

They say not enough accurate information is being provided in Spanish to inform the general public on how to best deal with the current coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela

“Over the past several days, we have learned that our non-English speaking constituents have had limited access to reliable information concerning the COVID-19 response, including official documents, announcements and proclamations from local, state, and federal officials,” their letter states.

“The lack of information and prevalence of disinformation have demonstrated the urgent need for official announcements to be disseminated effectively and in a multi-lingual way. Our non-English speaking citizens and residents are entitled to better access to information, and in a mainstream method. Our English and non-English speaking populations need to be informed about this pandemic, how it will impact them, and what they need to do in order to limit its spread.”

The lawmakers are requesting the next COVID-19 response package include “language to enable a strong educational and informational effort using broadcast media, including public radio and TV, to advise and inform the public on how to deal with the pandemic.”

Under their plan, all radio and television media, including major networks and public broadcasting networks, would transmit linguistically– and culturally–inclusive information for public consumption “in order to flatten the curve and curb the spread of COVID-19.”

Their letter is included at the end of this story.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

“Whether it is Spanish, American Sign Language or another language, we need to reach every American demographic to inform them of relevant pandemic-related information,” said Congressman Gonzalez.

“TV and radio stations across the country can help us inform the general public of the latest regarding the coronavirus and work to keep people informed around-the-clock. We must equip radio and TV networks with the ability to produce this content during this time of need. Reaching non-English speaking communities will enable us to more effectively curb the spread of the virus.”

Gonzalez has led the fight to bring PBS and NPR back to the Rio Grande Valley. The region is the largest market in the nation without public broadcasting. Gonzalez wants to the two nonprofit media organizations to provide more news and current affairs programs in Spanish.

Signers of the letter include: Gonzalez (TX-15), Vela (TX-34), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Jimmy Gomez (CA-35), Norma Torres (CA-34), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Darren Soto (FL-09), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44).

The letter can be found here and below:

March 23, 2020

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader
The United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Senate Minority Leader
The United States Senate
Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer,

As members serving in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), we write to express our desire that the next coronavirus response package include language to enable a strong educational and informational effort, using the broadcast media, to advise and inform the general public as to how best to deal with the current coronavirus outbreak.

Over the past several days, we have learned that our non-English speaking constituents have had limited access to reliable information concerning the COVID-19 response, including official documents, announcements and proclamations from local, state, and federal officials. The lack of information and prevalence of disinformation have demonstrated the urgent need for official announcements to be disseminated effectively and in a multi-lingual way. Our non-English speaking citizens and residents are entitled to better access to information, and in a mainstream method. Our English and non-English speaking populations need to be informed about this pandemic, how it will impact them, and what they need to do in order to limit its spread.

In the absence of medical treatments or vaccines, we know that one of the few means to halt the spread of the virus is through preventive actions by the public. Therefore, local, state, and federal public officials must communicate clear and concise messages that are targeted to local audiences, available in the media they regularly utilize, and in the languages they primarily speak at home.

Domestic radio and television media, including all major radio and TV networks in the country, as well as public broadcasting networks such as the National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service, are proven and reliable resources we must utilize to accomplish this goal. Not only are they free media, but they are available in nearly every part of the country on a full-time basis, and transmitted to these specific demographics in their own language. In our experience, the public turns to the domestic broadcast media in times of national or local emergencies, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires. This is just such a time.

Congress must prioritize a linguistically- and culturally-inclusive broadcast media-based educational and informational effort that secures public cooperation. This will aid in flattening the curve, and curb the spread of the virus in both English and non-English speaking communities across the country. Further, the federal government must utilize the broadcasters whose programming, from language and service perspectives, reach the many and varied minority groups in this country. We have a strong and vibrant broadcasting community serving our country, and they will be effective partners in this effort.

We ask that any further legislation include robust funding for the development and dissemination of all official public health information, announcements, and proclamations in multiple languages on radio and television networks. Reaching our non-English speaking communities will enable us to more effectively curb the spread of this virus.

Sincerely,

Vicente Gonzalez
Member of Congress

Ben Ray Lujan
Member of Congress

Filemon Vela
Member of Congress

Tony Cárdenas
Member of Congress

Sylvia R. Garcia
Member of Congress

Ruben Gallego
Member of Congress

Raul Ruiz, M.D.
Member of Congress

Grace F. Napolitano
Member of Congress

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia
Member of Congress

Jimmy Gomez
Member of Congress

Norma Torres
Member of Congress

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
Member of Congress

Darren Soto
Member of Congress

Veronica Escobar
Member of Congress

Nanette Diaz Barragán
Member of Congress