Supporting Non-Native English Speakers During the COVID-19 Crisis | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Supporting Non-Native English Speakers During the COVID-19 Crisis

State and local agencies, TV stations among those offering more information in languages other than English

Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority are working to do more to get critical health and safety information to Oregonians most at risk of experiencing health disparities—including immigrants, farm workers, people of color, older people and those whose preferred language is not English. That's the latest in a growing movement to support those left out of traditional support networks, locally and statewide.

The governor and OHA announced Thursday the launch of the Safe + Strong public awareness campaign, which includes a focus on increasing outreach to potentially at-risk communities and to offering culturally relevant tools and resources in 12 languages.

Supporting Non-Native English Speakers During the COVID-19 Crisis
Derek Markham, Flickr

The announcement comes after health data in the state revealed that people of Hispanic descent in Oregon have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19, suffering from the virus at higher rates than the general population. 

"We know that due to historical inequities, race and income disparities can lead to devastating health impacts,” said OHA director Patrick Allen in Thursday's release. “We also know from our ongoing collaboration with community-based organizations that essential health information about how to stay safe has not been reaching many Oregonians. We’re committed to improving the health of all Oregonians by putting resources and tools in the hands of the people who need them.”

The new campaign will include a website that offers resources in Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Hmong, Somali, Chuukese and Marshallese, as well as, "a community engagement and technical assistance effort to support community organizations in reaching and assisting Oregonians across the state," according to Thursday's release.

"While the coronavirus does not discriminate in who it infects, persistent disparities in our society put many Oregonians at more risk than others,"  Gov. Brown stated in the release. "I am committed to ensuring that all Oregonians, especially those from historically-underserved communities, have the information they need to stay safe during these unprecedented times.”

Local support for the Central Oregon immigrant population

Locally, groups including the Latino Community Association and Embrace Bend have been working to support individuals and families who may need financial support during the COVID-19 shutdowns. With the CARES Act stimulus funds going only to those who filed a tax return in 2018, many immigrants or undocumented individuals have been left out of accessing relief funds.

LCA's COVID-19 Immigrant Family Relief Fund offers $400 for a single person or $750 per family for those whose hours have been reduced or who have been laid off due to the COVID-19 crisis. People can apply at

Embrace Bend, meanwhile, is collecting funds for undocumented families and individuals, and will disburse $500 payments to those in need. The group will begin reviewing applications Friday, and will begin distributing funds April 27.

Closed captioning access in Central Oregon

Meanwhile, several Central Oregon TV channels are now offering closed captioning in Spanish, in an attempt to help share important news and information with a wider audience.

Central Oregon Daily News announced Wednesday that it is now offering Spanish closed captioning on both its stations, including KOHD-ABC and KBNZ-CBS.

“The onset of COVID-19 made us realize that our mission of keeping Central Oregonians safe and informed was missing an important segment of the population," wrote Shawn Wilcox, general manager for the two stations, in a press release. "There are a significant number of Central Oregonians for whom English is a second language and we want to them to know that we value their contributions to our communities."

The closed captioning in Spanish is provided by AWS Amazon automatic machine translation. People can change the language in their closed captioning through their individual TV's menu. 

Understanding the need for critical health information, the Source Weekly has also applied for a grant to help us have our most important news stories translated into Spanish. 

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. You can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis.
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