Refugee Resettlement Watch

Asst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agencies

Posted by Ann Corcoran on January 25, 2010

Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, has written to “stakeholders” to announce the increase in funding for the State Department’s portion of the Refugee Resettlement Program.   We first reported this increase the other day, here.

Thanks to all who sent the letter today!

I have three questions.  First, where are they going to get the approximately $72,000,000 the increase may come to ($900 x 80,000 refugees), doesn’t Congress have to appropriate the money?  And, secondly, since Mr. Schwartz says there is more reform coming (besides more taxpayer dollars), how do we in the public get a chance to give our recommendations to the task force mentioned below?  And, finally, why is the funding change happening in advance of the other recommendations?  It makes me think there is a rush to beat the planned cutback in discretionary spending (if that is where this money is coming from) the Obama Administration is now proposing in its new “populist” political strategy.

Here then is Mr. Schwartz letter:

United States Department of State

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration

Washington, D.C. 20520

January 25, 2010

Doing Right by Newly Arriving Refugees

Dear Colleagues:

Right now, it is difficult for humanitarians to focus on much more than the devastation in Haiti, and our Bureau is working closely with USAID and others on the effort to provide life-sustaining assistance to the affected population. At the same time, a broad array of humanitarian programs supported by the U.S. Government continue to provide critical aid to populations around the world, and I wanted to take a moment to offer important news about one such effort: the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

When I took the job as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration in July, it was with a keen awareness of Secretary Clinton’s commitment to elevate U.S. efforts to address refugee issues, and my own responsibilities as the new steward of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Every year, the United States provides resettlement opportunities to thousands of the world’s most vulnerable refugees, in a program endorsed by the President (and every President since 1980) through an annual determination. This program, which resettled nearly 75,000 refugees in the United States in 2009, reflects our own tradition as a nation of immigrants and refugees. It is an important, enduring and ongoing expression of our commitment to international humanitarian principles. The program also imposes upon us a solemn responsibility to address effectively the basic needs of refugees during their first days in our country. And while we cannot guarantee their success, we must provide sufficient support to ensure refugees are able to get on their feet during their first weeks and months here – and move quickly toward becoming independent, productive members of their new communities.

A Sudanese refugee family arrives at the airport [a photo appears here in the letter]
Photo courtesy of UNHCR

Early in my tenure, I visited Chicago, Fort Wayne, IN and Minneapolis/St. Paul, to learn more about our efforts to meet the needs of newly arriving refugees – Bhutanese, Burmese, Burundians, Hmong, Iraqis and so many others. What I saw was both heartening and dismaying. It was so gratifying to witness the deep and abiding commitment to refugees among overworked and underpaid agency personnel in the field, the determination of new arrivals, and the welcoming spirit of local school, healthcare and government officials. On the other hand, it was very sad to meet with refugees who had severe problems that go well beyond the challenges that any new refugee might expect to confront. I heard from refugees threatened with eviction after only months in the United States. I learned that refugees often had to choose between buying food or diapers for their children. And I spoke with agency field staff overburdened by the number of refugee families they serve and the complexity of the resettlement service needs of recent arrivals.

The Reception and Placement Program administered by the Department of State includes a one-time per capita grant for the initial weeks after arrival, but the grant has declined in real terms by more than 50% since its inception some decades ago. This is a primary reason for the problems that I witnessed which have been documented and publicized in a variety of assessments over the past year or so. In short, the combined level of public and charitable resources available to the program is simply insufficient to do a quality job of initial resettlement. And in my own review of this issue, I heard repeatedly from all stakeholders — agencies, congressional staff, and PRM Admissions office officials — that our level of this short term support must increase substantially.

In light of our critical obligations on these issues, PRM will increase the Reception and Placement per capita grant from $900 to $1,800, which will be effective as of January 1, 2010. This is intended to address challenges refugees face in their first 30-90 days in the United States. It will directly benefit refugees and the network of local non-profit affiliates that serve them. This would not have been possible without the generous support of Congress, which has been steadfast in its endorsement of the USRAP, as well as support from the National Security Council and others in the Administration.

Refugee children in their new school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota [photo here in original]
Photo courtesy of UNHCR

The bulk of the increase, at least $1,100, will be designated for direct support of refugees – so that in the first weeks after their arrival, they have a roof over their heads, a clean bed in which to sleep and basic assistance. Affiliates providing aid to refugees will have some flexibility in how those funds are allocated, and will also be able to use up to $700 per capita to meet costs related to management of this program. This $700 figure — about a 50% increase over the current management ceiling — should address the need to lower client-to-staff ratios, support positions to coordinate volunteers or develop private resources for Reception and Placement, or otherwise improve the quality of Reception and Placement services received by refugees.

While a critical component of overall program improvements, this funding increase is only part of the answer. As many of you know, the White House is leading a comprehensive review of the refugee resettlement program, and PRM will remain deeply engaged in this effort.

Many thanks, and kind regards,

Eric Schwartz
Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration

To learn more about PRM’s programs and activities, please visit our website at http://www.state.gov/g/prm/index.htm

Here is the press release from the State Department on the additional funding.

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27 Responses to “Asst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agencies”

  1. [...] Obama Administration had simply, with a slight of hand, increased the funding for the contractors, here, and this Congressional budget cut for FY2011 is now taking the funding level back to the pre-Obama [...]

  2. [...] astounding variety and with widely variant degrees of education and support here in the States. But the Department of State doubled the amount of funds that each refugee family recieves on arrival int…, and many groups in cities all across the nation are seeking to address refugee needs by changing [...]

  3. [...] received two comments about this that were posted on a differant post (this one).  So that readers don’t overlook them, here they are [...]

  4. Handren said

    It’s clear that you are anti-immigrant, but my question is where did you come from, who are your ancestors? Are you a Native American? Since they are the only natural inhabitants of this land before immigrants came.
    Now aside from that, in this country as you are aware, people need organizations such as the Kurdish Human Rights Watch to provide them with assistance to provide the American system. They need to understand where to go to look for a job, where to go to find safe housing and where does one go to get additional education, where do you go for culturally and linguistically appropriate health services. That is where the wonderful and helpful staff of the Kurdish Human Rights Watch, come in, wherever they may be, in Virginia, California, Michigan, Tennessee, Washington state and I happen to know of their additional offices in Texas and Portland that due to the bad economy had to be closed down.
    Many people including non-immigrants or non-refugees recieve services from KHRW, they do it gladly because they are compassionate and caring people. They have housed American families and their children in their housing program, helped companies working in Iraq (free of charge) provided assistance to the military and other government entities in Iraq and in the US.

    I can’t say enough about them, I can’t emphasize how important their work is, you may hate immigrants and refugees but organizations like the Kurdish Human Rights Watch saves lives. Enough with the hatred, enough with the immigrant and refugee bashing. Get a life, love someone!

  5. Angello Costa said

    Mustafa Al-Karadaghi was the founder of KHRW. No name was changed. This is a great organization that has provided assistance to all kinds of individuals and families in 7 different states. This is also an organization that cares. Many of their clients are non-Kurds, non-refugees and non-immigrants, but low-income individuals (including African American and Caucasians) who live in Fairfax County, California, Texas, Seattle, Michigan, Portland, Maryland, and Tennessee. They have done so with little funding and bidding on contracts, and winning fair and square contracts to provide these services. Nothing was given to them. They won like any other non-profit who bids on an open announcement.

  6. [...] will be given refugees to resettle (presumably any religion and any ethnicity), paid by the head (which has now been doubled by the Obama Administration) and I expect they will have their DC-area headquarters office paid for (by you!) like so many of [...]

  7. [...] Program of the US State Department?   We already learned that the Obama Administration has doubled payments to the resettlement contractors apparently without Congressional say-so and we hear through the grapevine that the complete review [...]

  8. [...] Then get this answer to the refugee ‘chicken or egg’ question!  The refugee agencies arrive first and bring the refugees to your town.  So, that Greensboro will still see a large flow of refugees because there remain three other government contractors looking to resettle refugees especially since the amount of money they receive from the taxpayer has just jumped 100%. [...]

  9. [...] Concord Monitor editorial begins with a discussion about how the big bucks the Obama Administration is now sending to the federal contractors resettling refugees in the US is not enough money to cover the true cost of the refugees.   And [...]

  10. [...] As usual the federal contractor, in this case the International Rescue Committee, makes excuses.   It is the usual litany: times are tough and this particular group is harder than most to resettle (I heard that same story with the Iraqis!).   However, even if times are tough, the IRC continues to call for MORE REFUGEES TO COME TO AMERICA!  I suppose that is because now the contractors (volags) are going to receive double the amount (per head) they were getting to resettle refugees, here. [...]

  11. [...] in this story from the Journal-Gazette in Ft. Wayne, IN about how the Obama Administration has doubled the federal funding to the government contractors who resettle refugees in your town or city.   However, I’m bringing the story to your [...]

  12. [...] numbers are tellingAre you sitting down! UN sending 6000 more Somalis to US this yearAboutAsst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agenciesLewiston, ME: Somali woman with no driver's license runs down studentRefugee Resettlement Fact [...]

  13. Carol Hinger said

    In regards to: “PRM will increase the Reception and Placement per capita grant from $900 to $1,800…”
    With the economy at such a low point, many people out of work or some still about to lose their jobs, many Americans would greatly benefit from such a handout as above mentioned going to refugees. I am all for helping others but, let’s help those already here rather than to continue to bring more people into this country when the country clearing can’t support those that are already here. Once America again prospers and we have helped those already here to have a roof over their heads and a hot meal in their bellies each night, and diapers for their babies, only then should we be reaching out to those outside our borders. Don’t get me wrong, I am shocked and deeply saddened by the atroscities heaped on some outside our borders. However, I realize we are greatly hurting ourselves by not healing our ailments before venturing outside our boundaries. We are weakening our great nation by bring in people that we clearly can’t support.
    Thank you for listening.

  14. [...] far they have just thrown more money to the resettlement contractors with promises of reform later.  I’ll bet too that those reforms won’t involve cutting [...]

  15. [...] Somalis one big happy family (Not!)How did we get so many Somali refugees—the numbers are tellingAsst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agenciesRefugee Resettlement Fact SheetsYour StateUS Conference of Catholic Bishops lobbying for Obamacare [...]

  16. [...] everywhere to take care of the refugees they have.  Just yesterday the Department of State released the news that they are doubling the per head payment (from taxpayers) for each refugee entering the [...]

  17. [...] did we get so many Somali refugees—the numbers are tellingRefugee Resettlement Fact SheetsAsst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agenciesAboutTwo resettlement agencies in Iowa to close doors « Haitian immigrants fact sheet [...]

  18. [...] Posts Are you sitting down! UN sending 6000 more Somalis to US this yearAsst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agenciesAsylum seekers head for IsraelHow did we get so many Somali refugees—the numbers are [...]

  19. [...] Posts Are you sitting down! UN sending 6000 more Somalis to US this yearAsst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agenciesAsylum seekers head for IsraelHow did we get so many Somali refugees—the numbers are [...]

  20. [...] everywhere to take care of the refugees they have. Just yesterday the Department of State released the news that they are doubling the per head payment (from taxpayers) for each refugee entering the US. On [...]

  21. [...] everywhere to take care of the refugees they have. Just yesterday the Department of State released the news that they are doubling the per head payment (from taxpayers) for each refugee entering the US.On [...]

  22. [...] Asst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agencies [...]

  23. [...] Asst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agencies [...]

  24. [...] refugees will be ending to the U.S.A. – who pays for them? We do! The Department of State released the news that they are doubling the per head payment (from taxpayers) for each refugee entering the US.   [...]

  25. [...] everywhere to take care of the refugees they have.  Just yesterday the Department of State released the news that they are doubling the per head payment (from taxpayers) for each refugee entering the [...]

  26. [...] Asst. Secretary of State announces more funding for refugee agencies [...]

  27. mark21281 said

    Why did the resettlement agencies get overhead per capita funding increased from $450 to $700, not simply despite doing a bad job, but specifically in response to doing a bad job? If you do a bad job the reward is more money? They know that the economy has ups and downs yet they didn’t raise enough money to cover the added costs during a recession. Why not? What about private grants? Private foundations give hundreds of thousands of dollars per grant to non-profits for humanitarian and local community endeavors. Why don’t the resettlement agencies run their programs off endowments? Isn’t there enough private interest in refugee resettlement to set up some endowment funds? If not then why does the Assistant Secretary refer to refugee resettlement reflecting our traditions?

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