FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: Public Participation

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: Public Participation

Does Title VI apply to public meetings?

Yes, Title VI applies to all programs and activities of federal fund recipients. If a recipient plans to hold a public meeting, it must ensure that all persons who may be interested in attending or participating at the meeting are able to do so, regardless of race, color, or national origin.

Has any agency issued guidance on the application of Title VI to public participation?

Yes. In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a guidance document (http://go.usa.gov/cu3ze) that identified a number of items for consideration for early and meaningful public involvement throughout the permit decision-making process, including the suggestion that recipients develop and implement a “Public Involvement Plan.” While Title VI does not require such a plan1, meaningful engagement with affected communities has the potential to address early in the process what may later become a Title VI concern.

 

EPA suggested that an effective plan include the following elements: (1) An overview of the recipient's plan of action for addressing the community’s needs and concerns, (2) A description of the community (including demographics, history, and background), (3) A contact list of agency officials with phone numbers and email addresses to allow the public to communicate via phone or internet, (4) A list of past and present community concerns (including any Title VI complaints), (5) A detailed plan of action (outreach activities) recipient will take to address concerns, (6) A contingency plan for unexpected events, (7) Location(s) where public meetings will be held (consider the availability and schedules of public transportation), (8) Contact names for obtaining translation of documents and/or interpreters for meetings, (9) Appropriate local media contacts (based on the culture of the community), and (10) Location of the information repository.

 

When considering involving the public in decision-making, recipients may wish to consider providing background materials or training opportunities on the issue to be discussed so that participants are fully informed and able to effectively participate. After the public engagement, recipients may also wish to conduct an assessment through the use of informal feedback, questionnaires, debriefing sessions, or surveys to evaluate the public involvement program and to identify areas for improvement.

 

Recipients must also ensure access for persons with limited English proficiency and persons with disabilities to their programs, activities and services, including public involvement activities.


1Although there is no affirmative obligation, such a plan may be required as a remedial measure.

I see that one of the items concerns obtaining translation of documents or providing interpreters for meetings. Do recipients need to provide notice of the meetings in non-English languages? If so, which ones?

When providing notice of a public meeting, recipients should consider: (1) whether limited English proficient (LEP) persons may be part of the target outreach audience; and, (2) the nature and purpose of the meeting - are LEP persons likely to be directly affected or interested in the subject of the meeting? Recipients can easily determine if LEP persons reside in a target geographical area by visiting http://www.lep.gov/maps/. Community-based organizations and other LEP stakeholders can assist recipients in determining the language(s) and most accessible format for providing notice of the meeting to LEP persons. For written notices, funding agencies’ LEP Guidance documents may also provide further information about the parameters for providing written translations of vital documents such as notices of public meetings that affect LEP populations. If a recipient or agency determines that it should provide a notice of the meeting in one or more non-English languages, the recipient also should request that LEP prospective attendees advise it that they plan to attend the meeting.

 

When a recipient is aware that LEP individuals are likely to attend the meeting, the recipient must take reasonable steps to provide appropriate language assistance services to ensure LEP individuals can meaningfully participate in the meeting.

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