A worker gives a patient a free COVID-19 test in the parking lot of Kennedy High School in Bloomington on September 1, 2020. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

The state of Minnesota launched a new COVID-19 hotline this week that aims to bring information about the pandemic and related resources to immigrants and refugees. 

Run through the state Department of Human Services’ Refugee Resettlement Network, the hotline is live each weekday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at (651) 318-0989. 

Eighteen staffers who speak 13 different languages will run the hotline during the day. People who call the hotline after hours or during the weekend can leave messages in any language. Hotline staff will return the call the next business day, explained Nikki Farago, assistant commissioner for Children and Family Services at the Department of Human Services. 

“We can give them information about where to get testing, anything about food support, housing and rental assistance, and COVID-19 case investigations,” Farago said.

She added that it’s too early to tell what the response has been or how many people have called into the hotline, which just launched Monday.

As COVID-19 vaccines become more available, Farago said she expects the hotline to offer information on where and how to get them as well. 

In a press statement, Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead explained the need for the new service. “This hotline will provide a wealth of information in multiple languages so refugees and other immigrants can quickly get the help they need on COVID-19 as well as other important services,” Harpstead said. 

The DHS hotline is the latest in a slew of state-funded COVID-19 hotlines offered by different nonprofit organizations. 

  • Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment Through Research (HACER-MN), for example, offers a similar hotline targeting Spanish speakers in greater Minnesota on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. through 5 p.m.; call (651) 304-6145. 
  • Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES), another organization that works in the Twin Cities metro, offers a COVID-19 hotline for Spanish speakers at (651) 768-0000. Both hotlines were launched with funding from the Minnesota Department of Health. 
  • A COVID-19 hotline through the state and the Hmong American Partnership offers pandemic information in English, Hmong, Somali, and Karen. It can be reached at (651) 304-6236.
  • The African Career, Education and Resource, Inc. (ACER) offers a state-funded COVID-19 hotline aimed at African immigrants at (763) 307-4731.

The new DHS COVID-19 hotline is aimed at a broader population. Services are offered in any of the following languages: Amharic, Anuak, Arabic, French, Hindi, Karen, Lingala, Luganda, Mashi, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, and Swahili. Speakers of other languages can also receive help through the hotline. 

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. He has been a journalist for 15 years. Before joining Sahan Journal, he worked for close to a decade in New Mexico, where his reporting prompted the resignation...