The California Employment Development Department (EDD) announced Monday that it had reached an agreement with “representatives of diverse communities across California” to strengthen multilingual unemployment benefit customer service.
The changes came after numerous civil rights organizations filed a complaint alleging systematic language discrimination by the EDD. Among those who filed the complaint were the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (ALC), California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA), Center for Workers’ Rights (CWR), Legal Aid at Work (LAAW), and Chinese for Affirmative Action.
“For many limited English speakers, EDD’s lack of language services has been an insurmountable barrier to accessing the benefits they need to support their families. Expanding in-language phone lines and translated resources in additional Asian, Middle Eastern, and other languages will reduce the barriers that have frustrated families and kept them from receiving support before and during the pandemic,” said Winnie Kao of the Asian Law Caucus.
During the pandemic, unemployment rates rose throughout America, especially amongst people of color, American Progress reports. It can be difficult for people whose first language is not English to access services. According to the press release, one in five Californians speak languages other than English.
EDD has agreed to add more dedicated phone lines with EDD agents who speak different languages. It will also expand translations of unemployment insurance information and resources, like applications.
Other ways the department will be strengthening its multilingual services include:
· Continued no-cost language interpreter services for unemployment insurance claimants in any language the claimant requests.
· Expanding existing in-language unemployment insurance phone lines from Cantonese, English, Mandarin, Spanish and Vietnamese to include Armenian, Korean and Tagalog so that California’s top non-English languages have dedicated EDD phone lines.
· Translating vital unemployment insurance documents for claimants into the top 15 non-English languages used in California: Arabic, Armenian, Cantonese, Farsi, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer (Cambodian), Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese.
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