What is Monday? It is the beginning of the federal fiscal year. It is the first day of FY19. It is the day when the writing will be on the wall for many refugee resettlement offices around the country.
Why? Because in 1980 Jimmy Carter signed the Refugee Act of 1980 in to law and set up a house of cards that needs to fall now. Originally (supposedly!) designed as a public-private partnership, the federal government and ‘humanitarian’ non-profit groups were to share equally in the costs of admitting tens of thousands of refugees to the US each year.
But, over the years, because Congress has been so remiss in overseeing the program (the Rs want cheap labor!), those non-profit groups (aka federal contractors) have gotten fat and confident (like Aesop’s grasshopper) on ever larger amounts of federal funding and too lazy to raise sufficient amounts of private money to see them through if for any reason the number of paying clients/refugees declined.
(An aside: The inability to raise enough private money is also indicative of the fact that there isn’t enough interest by average Americans in financially supporting the program in the first place.)
So here we are with one story after another about what Monday will bring to dozens of resettlement contractors around the country.
From Austin, Texas we learn that a Catholic contractor—Caritas—is closing its refugee program.
EXCLUSIVE: As refugees dwindle, Caritas will end resettlement program
Since 1974, the organization has helped thousands of people fleeing war or persecution find a new life in Austin. But after 44 years, Caritas is ending its refugee resettlement program and as of Monday, it will no longer serve new refugees.
“It’s really a tragedy that this program has to go away,” said Jo Kathryn Quinn, executive director for Caritas.
For the past two years, Caritas has seen a sharp decline in the number of refugees arriving in Austin, and the development has made the program “financially unsustainable,” Quinn said. Between 2010 and 2016, Caritas resettled an average of 576 refugees each year. Since last October, Caritas has resettled 151 refugees, but the nonprofit has not received any new refugees since April.
“Having zero refugees arrive in two months was unheard of for us,” Quinn said. “It was the final alarm bell that told us that we couldn’t continue this way.”
In June, Caritas’ board of directors voted to close the program at the end of the fiscal year at the recommendation of the nonprofit’s executive leadership.
When fewer refugees arrive, less federal money comes in to support them as well. Refugees receive a one-time amount of $1,125 from federal funds for resettlement needs, including housing and food, said Adelita Winchester, Caritas’ director of integrated services. Caritas would supplement federal funds with about $1 million annually in philanthropic donations,Winchester said. [The reporter has missed an important piece of information. The refugee gets $1,125 and Caritas gets another $1,125 for themselves per refugee.—ed]
“We didn’t have any excess philanthropic dollars to shift to aid this program,” Quinn said.
Now to California…..
From KPBS San Diego:
Budget Cuts, Layoffs And Closures Hit Refugee-Serving Organizations
Donna Duvin is executive director at the San Diego office of the national nonprofit International Rescue Committee, or IRC, one of nine federally funded resettlement agencies in the U.S. Duvin said the local office’s VESL funding dropped by 34 percent this year forcing the agency to replace some paid instructors with volunteers and interns.
“As the numbers began to fall, the support that we had from the county that passed through dollars from the federal government, those declined as well,” Duvin said.
Duvin said in past years more than three-fourths of the agency’s budget relied on government dollars, causing a loss of millions as the office’s arrivals dipped by 85.5 percent since 2016. She said the budget changes during that time forced the agency to eliminate 15 positions.
Apparently the IRC is trying to raise private money to keep some functions going. LOL! Maybe CEO David Miliband could give up some of his nearly $700,000 in annual salary to keep some low-level staffers in a job!
The IRC is not alone.
A representative for the national resettlement agency Church World Service estimated it lost possibly hundreds of staffers when it closed 10 offices after it was forced to merge operations with other organizations in some U.S. cities. And a spokesman for World Relief said it laid off 140 employees after shutting down five offices across the U.S.
Expect more stories over the coming days.
What you can do….
If you are looking for something to do, go to this list from last year of the resettlement agencies working in your towns and cities and call them. See if they are still in operation, or plan to close soon.
The 1980 structure of the US Refugee Admissions Program is still in place and the Trump Administration must push now for a complete reform of the program or in 2021 or 2025, it will be full steam ahead for these contractors. They will quickly staff-up and a new President could say—We must make up for the lost Trump years and quadruple the numbers of refugees coming in.