Massachusetts launched a new website Saturday for Spanish-speaking residents to apply for unemployment assistance, in response to concerns that language barriers could be locking thousands of people out of the state's unemployment system.
The governor's office also said the Department of Unemployment Assistance will make applications available in Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Vietnamese and additional languages in the coming days.
The state's unemployment systemhas been flooded with applications, as hundreds of thousands of people have been laid off as a result of the coronovirus shutdown.
According to the City of Boston, about 17 percent of its residents speak English “less than very well.”Advocacy groups have raised concerns that people who are not proficient in English will have no way to access the coronoavirus-related assistance programs.
Governor Charlie Baker also said during an interview with El Mundo Boston on Saturday that he is aware that many undocumented workers in Massachusetts may have lost work and will be unable to apply for government aid.
He said a Massachusetts-specific fundraising effort he organized with his wife has raised $15 million, part of which will be dedicated to helping undocumented immigrants in the state who are ineligible to collect federal unemployment benefits.
“One of the main reasons for doing this was because we knew we had a big community out there of people who weren't going to qualify for any of these benefit programs,” Baker said. “We wanted to have a vehicle through which we could make resources available to them.”
Baker says the funds will be made available to community organizations, and the state will be leaving it up to those groups to decide how the funds get distributed. “That's going to be a function of the way the local foundations believe the needs in their communities are best met,” Baker said. The governor did not give a timeline for when those funds will be made available.
The Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund was created to help vulnerable populations, including people experiencing homelessness, frontline workers, and undocumented immigrants.