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Think of all of the people that come in to the county Family Resource Centers to ask for government help with food, rent, healthcare and other social welfare benefits.

They are young and old.

They speak English, or Spanish, or Tagalog, or sign language, or many other languages. Some are sick, some push babies in strollers or grandfathers in wheelchairs.

This is why the county is supposed to train its workers regularly on civil rights procedures — everything from making sure the buildings are accessible for disabled people to providing a translator for an applicant who does not speak English.

Those civil rights protocols haven’t been adequately followed in San Diego County, a federal review of the county’s food stamps program found. The review also pointed out lingering problems in the county’s food stamps program, which we detailed yesterday.

The review, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, found that the civil rights training for food stamps workers has been “inconsistent and not conducted on a regular basis.”

The report found some “employees don’t recall ever receiving” the training, and those who did couldn’t remember what was covered.

Federal law also requires the county to make sure that people with limited English-speaking ability are provided with translation and clear information. All three county offices have good processes in the offices for dealing with Spanish and Tagalog speakers, the review said.

But the review found some issues:

  • Brochures and instructions are not available in languages other than English and Spanish.
  • There is a “consistent delay” of up to two weeks to get a translator for applicants who speak languages beside English and Spanish.
  • County website for food stamps is written only in English.

The federal review requires the county to take corrective actions “immediately.” The county must:

  • Print the materials and drop box instructions in more languages.
  • Make translators available without the two-week delay.
  • Add information in more languages to county website within 60 days.

In several places, the review commended the county’s Kearny Mesa office Refugee Assistance Program for its accessibility for speakers of other languages and networks with community organizations.

The review also pointed out several issues at county centers for disabled people, like handrails obscured by plants and a lack of room for wheelchairs in lobbies.

“We’re going to look into those to make sure the context is accurate,” said Dale Fleming, director of strategic operations for the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, “and correct those issues.”

— KELLY BENNETT

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