Unemployment Languages Now available in Armenian, Korean and Tagalog


California's unemployment agency is making online applications available in the seven most-used languages in the state, after years of fielding complaints that benefits were eluding those who don't speak English.

The Employment Development Department announced this week it had added Armenian, Korean, and Tagalog to its website on top of English, Spanish, Chinese (in traditional and simplified characters), and Vietnamese.

Those seeking help by phone can call hotlines in all those languages, with Chinese being available in Cantonese or Mandarin.

For years, Joann Lee, special counsel for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, has been pushing the unemployment agency to improve language access, noting that navigating the application process is hard enough in English. Imagine if it's not your first language.

The language barrier reached a crisis point when the pandemic put many people out of work. Non-English speakers who were able to get through to an EDD representative found themselves unable to communicate their needs and resorted to hiring brokers to help them file claims.

"They kind of appear to be like community-based type services, but they are charging fees just to provide the language access and technology access in-language, sort of preying on members of their own community," Lee said.

The Legal Aid Foundation, along with other nonprofits serving immigrants, filed a complaint against the unemployment agency with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging language access violations under federal and state law.

  • Armenian: 1-800-547-3506
    Korean: 1-866-303-0706
    Tagalog: 1-800-547-2058
    All other languages: Interpreter services are available free of charge.

In 2022, the unemployment agency agreed to a settlement to expand the range of languages used for Californians to access benefits.

Lee said hotlines in languages aside from English and Spanish were added more than a year ago; the expanded language access online is part of the department's multi-year effort to fulfill the settlement.

Next up, the agency said it will look at improving access to other benefits it provides: paid family leave and disability insurance — important steps in the right direction, Lee said.

"Ultimately, we want to see that every individual regardless of language, access all of those credit critical benefits beyond unemployment insurance," Lee said.

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