News

INTERPRETER BUDGET UPDATE

May 20, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

The CFI Board has been zealously advocating and protecting our members’ interest with extra efforts made during the Covid-19 pandemic. Protecting our budget is no exemption. 

This upcoming state fiscal budget (2020-2021) has been divided in 2 segments due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The first segment will be issued in June 2020 and the second segment will be issued on or about September 2020. The reason for dividing the budget in 2 segments is due to the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in extending of the income tax due date from April 15 to July 15. 

Although interpreters fall under the Judiciary, our line item fund is a separate from the courts operation budget. All courts are 100% reimbursed for all interpreter related expenses. This includes wages and benefits. 

For the past years, the interpreter line item fund, has been increased.  To our knowledge, not once has the interpreter line item fund ever been decreased. 

Trial Court Interpreter General Line Item Fund History

2013-2014

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

2017-2018

2018-2019

$90+ million

$94.5+ million

$95.8+ million

$106+million

$108+million

$122.3+ million

 

As customary, every January, the Governor reveals and publishes his proposed state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In January 2020, the Governor proposed an increase of 8.9 million to the general fund, making the interpreter line item fund total $131.2 million with an additional allocation of $1 million for VRI equipment. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic impact, Governor Newsom reworked the budget and made some cuts. The May revised state budget was revealed last Thursday May 14th, 2020 (this is the first segment of the 2020-2021 fiscal state budget). 

Similar to all funds, the interpreter line item fund was not spared of cuts. However, the cuts were not taken from last year’s amount ($122.3+ million) but rather, from the January proposed amount ($131.2 million). Our fund suffered a 5% cut to the overall January proposed fund resulting in a $6.5 million decrease, making the interpreter line item 2020-2021 fund $124.6 million, which is a $2.4 million increase to last year’s fund. 

In addition to the new interpreter line item amount of $124.6 million, the Governor also allocated an additional $9.9 million to the general fund and $9.6 every year thereafter. It is not unusual for funds to received additional allocations of money to the general fund. What that means is that for the next fiscal year (2020-2021) the interpreter line item will consist of an ongoing general amount of $124.6 million (base fund amount to be used only for the reimbursement of interpreters wages and benefits) plus $9.9 million as an additional allocation which brings the interpreter line item fund to $134.5 million. The $9.9 million will be used for both interpreter expenses (wages + benefits) that exceed the general fund and for VRI equipment. 

Holding true to our fiduciary duty, we are working diligently to limit the amount of the $9.9 million courts can use to purchase VRI equipment and to set safeguards for the use of VRI. It is our position that in-person interpreting should be mandatory and the preferred vehicle to deliver meaningful access to justice for all limited English proficient court-users; VRI should only be allowed to connect remote courts who have no employees in the language pair of they seek with courts with larger employee pools with diverse languages on staff; the use of VRI should be limited to routine brief non-complex and non-evidentiary hearings and furthermore, VRI is to be used under the safeguards and protocols outlined in our MOUs. 

Thank you all for your support and trust.

In Solidarity,

Janet Hudec
CFI Local 39000 Vice President
CFI Local 39000 Legislative Chair

 

 

Reporting Remote Interpreting Problems During the COVID-19 State of Emergency

Interpreters Need to Document Issues of Remote Interpreting Use and Failures

As the pandemic continues, and in some instances expands throughout the state, there is pressure on the part of justice partners and the courts to limit the number of people in courtrooms. In the case of interpreters who are working on site, it has become abundantly clear that there are many courts that are unable to provide optimum conditions for Centers for Disease Control social distancing and personal protective equipment guidelines. 

To keep interpreting staff safe during the COVID-19 crisis, there is an expansion in the use of several forms of remote interpreting. The Local has been able to formalize side letters in which remote interpreting “sundowns” and will only be utilized during the state of emergency; the Union continues in talks with several counties to bring standardization of best professional practices and minimize the potential for abusive, dangerous, or unhealthful practices.

In some courts this remote interpreting is done on site with the interpreter in their own room, out of the courtroom or other offices (mediation, probate, etc.). There are some superior courts that are trying to distance the interpreter and carry out the interpretation using employees sheltered at home, or a completely separate room/facility from the one in which they are assigned, all in the interest of social distancing and keeping everyone contagion-free.

Since beginning this “experiment” with improvised distance interpreting, many of our members have called their stewards and/or our Local complaining about situations that may be putting at risk the rights of the parties involved in the proceedings. We commonly hear that one thing or another “needs to be fixed.” Insofar as this remote interpreting during COVID-19, our duty is to document and memorialize all the problems of providing language access for LEPs through the myriad of distance interpreting systems that are popping up due to the need for social distancing.

We are asking members throughout the state to notify the Union on our local’s website about any language access and remote interpreting technological issues you may be encountering during this COVID-19 period. Click on this linkand in the Subject Line please indicate “Remote Interpreting Issue,” as well as fill in the other details as completely as you are able. Anyone may file a report about remote interpreting issues – that includes justice partners, like Attorneys, Bench officers, etc.

Remember that you have an ethical duty, outlined in our Ethics Manual (page 33) and Rules of Court 2.890 (h) to report (on the record) impediments to your performance. It is clearly stated in our MOUs that no interpreter may be retaliated against, nor disciplined for bringing the impediment to the attention of the Court, or any other authorized party.

Please recognize that if you are omitting or misunderstanding the source information based on faulty remote interpreting technology or lack of sound procedures and protocols, you may be exposing yourself to challenges from court staff or even the Limited English Proficient individual. It should be noted that these remote interpreting platforms have the ability and may even automatically record an interpreter’s performance.

Therefore, it is your right and duty to state in open court that the equipment is not functioning properly, you need a repetition, cannot hear, etc., because those are indeed impediments to your performance. If you do not speak up, if you do not file a report with the Local, you could be held responsible for errors and omissions, and that could even lead to your certification/registration in jeopardy of being revoked.

If your Court is starting, or is presently carrying out any sort of remote interpreting (VRI, Telephonic, etc.), and particularly if you find that the equipment and protocols are impacting your ability to provide a complete and accurate interpretation for all parties involved… WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU. Your integrity as a sworn court interpreter and an LEP individual’s rights may be on the line!

Stay safe; stay well.

In solidarity, 

The CFI Local 39000 Executive Board

 

 

 

Judicial Council of California - Adoption of Emergency Rules

Please Read Full Report

 

 

 2019 Completion of Continuing Education

Extension of Deadline to April 30, 2020  

 

The deadline to receive payment, and if due, your signed document attesting to completion of your continuing education and professional assignment requirement, has been extended without penalty to April 30, 2020 due to the COVID-19 health crisis. This deadline has been extended to provide any interpreters who are experiencing financial hardship with additional time to submit their annual fees and/or required documentation.

To avoid suspension and removal from the Judicial Council’s Master List, we must receive your annual renewal fee and/or compliance form by the extended deadline of April 30, 2020. No monetary penalties will be assessed. Please refer to the expiration date on your badge that indicates when you need to submit the compliance form.

For any questions. Please contact: 

Debbie Chong
 

Informational Webinar Regarding Cares Act 

(Click on this link)
“The Two Trillion Dollar ‘CARES ACT'’”
New Benefits for Working People and Their Families 
 
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