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Advocates Say Language Barriers Put Already Vulnerable Populations At Risk

Casa San Jose
Based in Beechview, Casa San Jose supports and advocates for Latino communities on issues related to local integration and self-sufficiency.


On today's program: How a lack of Spanish-language material about the coronavirus is affecting Pittsburgh’s Latinx community; an update on preparations ahead of the Pennsylvania primary in June; and an Erie-based ride-share driver shares his experience with the shutdown.

How Casa San Jose shares information about the pandemic
(00:00 — 7:21)

Government press briefings about the coronavirus aren’t available in Spanish, so the Pittsburgh-based advocacy organization Casa San Jose has stepped up in recent weeks to help members of Pittsburgh’s Latinx community translate news and information through printed handouts and other means.

Executive director Monica Ruiz says many in the community don’t understand the severity of the pandemic, which can affect how people understand potential health outcomes, new social norms and safety protocols. She attributes that to a lack of easily accessible information. 

“Let’s be honest. Medical terminology is difficult for those of us that do speak English,” she says. “Even when you do speak the language, it’s really hard to understand what’s going on.”

She says the shutdown of non-essential businesses has been a “tragedy” for the Latinx community, because many work in the hospitality industry. Many don’t qualify for unemployment benefits because they are undocumented. 

Ruiz says she’s been collecting donations from foundations and others to create a COVID relief assistance program. It won’t be the $1,200 check many naturalized Americans are receiving, she says, “but it’s going to be something for the people who have literally had not a single dollar in their hand.”

Ruiz hopes to start distributing the cash next week.

One month out, the path to PA’s primary remains unclear
(7:29 — 10:30) 

Nearly 1 million of the state’s 8.5 million registered voters have asked for mail-in ballots for the rescheduled Pennsylvania primary on June 2. 

Gov. Tom Wolf said he won't test his emergency powers by ordering an all-mail primary election next month, despite calls from many counties to shift entirely to vote-by-mail, but as the PA Post’s Emily Previti reports, there are still lots of questions about how his administration will be able to help counties deal with the huge volume of mailed ballots.

One man’s journey through social distancing
(10:41 — 18:00) 

During the coronavirus pandemic, Erie ride-share driver Andrew Cousins saw his income drop by more than half. Some days, he was lucky to hit $40. 

His efforts to find an IT job stalled and stay-at-home orders separated him from friends, making his depression harder to manage. But as he tells PA Post reporter Ed Mahon, he finds moments of connection

Cousins shared his experience through video diaries, two long interviews and many Facebook messages with the reporting collaborative America Amplified.

90.5 WESA’s Julia Zenkevich contributed to this report. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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