Unemployment site now available in Spanish

Baker says other language translations to follow

A Spanish version of this story is available.

AFTER THREE WEEKS of questions on the issue, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Saturday that the state unemployment benefits portal is now available in Spanish.

Baker announced the launch of the portal in an interview with El Mundo Boston Saturday afternoon.

ACCESS THE STATE’S UNEMPLOYMENT PORTAL IN SPANISH HERE.
AQUI ESTAS LA FORMA DE DESEMPLEO EN ESPANOL.

In a statement, his office said the Department of Unemployment Assistance will make language applications available in Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Vietnamese and additional languages in the coming days.

The portal was in English for the first month of the coronavirus pandemic, leading thousands of recently unemployed Spanish speakers to turn to nonprofit organizations to assist them with their unemployment application. Forms explaining unemployment benefits were available in multiple languages, but the portal itself was not.

The administration on Friday announced that its COVID-19 text message alert system is available in Spanish, and that the state’s non-emergency help line for COVID-19, 2-1-1, is available in over 150 languages.

When asked over the past month about the unemployment portal’s language barrier, the administration has said that it was “working on it.”

“The new Spanish mobile-friendly application is among several efforts to reach and assist all individuals who are eligible for unemployment benefits and provide the financial assistance they need,” said Baker.

Marion Davis of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Coalition said the move is a good first step that will help the roughly one-third of Massachusetts immigrants who are Spanish speakers. “You can’t stop there,” she said referring to the other non-English-speaking immigrant populations in need of access to the portal in their language.

On Friday, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo joined the growing group of lawmakers to ask Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito to make the online unemployment application available in multiple languages. In the letter, sent to Commonwealth, DeLeo wrote, “In order to ensure that all residents are able to apply quickly and efficiently for UI benefits, I respectfully urge you to have the portal translated into the non-English languages most commonly spoken in the Commonwealth.”

The Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton developed a free online tool that lets Spanish-speaking people fill out the English-language forms on their own.

Employees at the workers center created a slideshow featuring screenshots of the portal with instructions written in bubbles in Spanish. For example, where the instructions say fill in your home address, a bubble in Spanish tells the user what to do.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Greater Boston Legal Services has been training volunteers to become temporary unemployment insurance claims helpers so that they can work through a backlog of recently laid-off immigrants who speak Cantonese, Spanish, and other languages.

The advocacy group Lawyers for Civil Rights sent a letter last month to Labor Secretary Rosalin Acosta and Department of Unemployment Assistance director Richard Jeffers urging them to make the portal more language accessible.