Denver aims to break down language barriers in 5 Star application process

Denver 5 Star Program language resources
Posted at 11:07 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 01:36:56-05

DENVER — Beginning Tuesday, the City and County of Denver will accept applicants for its 5 Star program, which allows businesses to increase capacity if they implement specific health and safety measures.

Denver has received conditional approval and will have to see seven days of stable or declining Level Orange metrics before the program can be fully implemented, but there's already efforts to make the program accessible for everyone.

"It is important for us to really look at minority businesses — they have additional barriers that other companies don't have. When English is your second language, you really need extra technical assistance," said Eric Hiraga, executive director of the Denver Office of Economic Development.

To apply for the 5 Star program, businesses have several forms to complete, including HVAC checklist, application and pre-audit prep list.

Denver will be offering all three components in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

"We found out the biggest demand is for both Spanish and Vietnamese," Hiraga said. "We are committed to hiring the translation services we need for our population. I think after we get the initial round of applications, we'll have an idea of what gaps we may have."

The 5 Star program also has an audit process. When owners apply in a language other than English, Hiraga said the auditor will also speak the same language.

"We have been recruiting a small army within the city of both volunteers and city employees. So far, of our recruitment, a third have been multilingual, and that has mostly been with Spanish and Vietnamese," Hiraga said.

On Monday, Denver government held town halls with 5 Star Program information in both English and Spanish.

Colorado's Hispanic Chamber of Commerce hosted the Spanish-language town hall.

Mike Ferrufino, president and CEO of the chamber, said making sure program details are accessible is key to economic recovery.

"Right now, in Colorado we have an estimated 100,000 Hispanic-owned businesses." Ferrufino said. "The United States Hispanic market is often referred to as a country within a country. If it was its own country, the GDP would be $2.6 trillion, making it the eighth largest economy in the world."

Ferrufino said they want to give people the opportunity to open with more capacity with the public health information they need to do so safely.

Camelia Robles and her husband own two El Coco Pirata locations in Colorado. She said they plan on applying to the state's 5 Star program.

"The 5 Star can really help us get a little bit more revenue and still continue to operate the business," Robles said.

In response to the additional language options, she added, "As a minority we sometimes don't understand the questions, or we don't know exactly what it is. We need to understand the questions and answers we're going to give, so we get approved. We also need to understand so we can truly keep our customers as safe as possible."