Earlier this week, SFADC wrote a letter to the Department of Housing and Community Development, the state agency responsible for overseeing the emergency rental assistance program. After weeks of trying to raise concerns over digital and language barriers in the rent relief program application system, we finally got the state’s attention.
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez wrote a good article outlining the issues for KQED: “A ‘Discriminatory Barrier’: California’s Rent Relief Website Lacks Translations, Advocates Say”
One major issue we brought up is the lack of professionally translated content and English-only walls on the website. Google translate, while available for some pages on the state’s application portal, offers many incorrect, confusing, or at times offensive translations, such as the example below (now corrected) that we highlighted to them, where “Returning Applicant” was translated in Chinese as “Go back to your country, applicant.”
At a meeting with HCD this week, they committed to some changes, including improvements to the language access in the call center and on some parts of the website. We will monitor the site and are eager to see a shift to professional translation of all materials and navigational text.
We are concerned that the state has not committed to offer a mail-in option for applications, despite committing to translating printable applications into multiple languages. A digital-only application system and the requirement of an email address to even initiate an application is an unnecessary barrier that will reduce access for those who need it most, including immigrants and seniors who have already been disproportionately impacted by this crisis.