Working Together to Empower the Cambodian American Community: How The Cambodian Family Community Center Utilizes the Unemployment Language Opportunity Program Grant

A farmer using drones to over his field.
TCF Director Amina Sen-Matthews

The Cambodian Family Community Center (TCF) aims to promote social health by empowering refugee and immigrant families with the knowledge, skills, and resources to create health and well-being in their lives. Founded in 1980, the TCF primarily serves Cambodian individuals and families residing in Orange County.

In July of 2022, the Center at Sierra Health Foundation, in partnership with the Employment Development Department (EDD), announced the award of $2 million to 11 community-based organizations (CBOs) throughout California to help limited English-speaking communities and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities have better access to resources for unemployment insurance (UI) and other EDD services and benefits.

“The Unemployment Language Opportunity Program (ULOP) grant funding has significantly enhanced The Cambodian Family Community Center’s (TCF) capacity to serve limited English-speaking communities. With this funding, TCF has been able to hire Khmer-English bilingual and bicultural staff members to conduct outreach and engagement within the Cambodian community. Serving as a lead agency, TCF has collaborated with several Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) to extend its reach further. These partnerships include Vital Access Care Foundation for the Vietnamese community, Community Health Initiative of Orange County for the Spanish-speaking community, Access California for the Arabic community, Korean Community Services for the Korean-speaking community, OC Herald Center for the Chinese -speaking community, and Southland for the Vietnamese community. This broad approach ensures that critical information reaches as many community members as possible” said Amina Sen-Matthews, Director of Programs at the Cambodian Family Community Center (TCF).

The grant funding has allowed The Cambodian Family to translate EDD materials into multiple languages, including Khmer (Cambodian), Vietnamese, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Korean, and Spanish. Through the ULOP grant, the organization has been able to provide invaluable assistance to community members in navigating the complexities of the EDD benefit programs application process. For instance, one Cambodian community member approached them after facing difficulties with his application due to language barriers and technological challenges. The Khmer-English bilingual and bicultural case manager facilitated communication with the EDD, resulting in a successful resolution of his case, enabling him to receive back payments. Similar success stories demonstrate the tangible impact of the grant on the organization’s outreach efforts.

Community based organizations (CBOs) like TCF helps government bridge service gaps for hard-to-reach communities. TCF as a trusted partner received acknowledgment from the EDD for their cultural competence and deep roots that are indispensable in connecting with the communities they serve. The partnership between the EDD and TCF reflects a collaborative effort to ensure that the needs of limited English-speaking communities are met effectively.

“We understand that community organizations like The Cambodian Family Community Center (TCF) is one way to successfully connect and get critical information on EDD’s benefits and services to communities who speak a language other than English,” said Erica Chovva Ruiz, EDD’s Language Access Officer.

TCF has also implemented various educational and outreach initiatives using the grant funding. These include weekly Facebook Live sessions conducted in Khmer to educate community members about EDD services and application processes as well as providing in-person, in-language support, and assisting individuals with tasks such as creating email addresses and uploading documents to the myEDD portal.

The success story of TCF is intertwined with EDD’s commitment to equity and language access. The ULOP funding has allowed TCF to address language barriers among the community members it serves. By translating various EDD outreach materials into Khmer (Cambodian), Vietnamese, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Korean, and Spanish, TCF contributed to the ongoing efforts to provide multilingual support. The ULOP funding not only facilitated outreach efforts but also strengthened the foundation for ongoing language access improvements within the EDD. While the language access infrastructure at the EDD is still evolving, the funding demonstrates the EDD’s sincere commitment to narrowing the language gap and ensuring that vital services are accessible to all Californians.