Church agency hails US government doubling of refugee funds

By agency reporter
January 26, 2010

Refugee programme staff from the relief agency, Church World Service and their colleagues in local resettlement agencies across the United States, have hailed the US government’s recent announcement that it has doubled to US$1,800 the amount of the per capita grant to assist refugees resettling in the United States.

The funds help new arrivals to pay for such expenses as security deposits, initial rent payments, household furnishings, start-up pocket money and other basic necessities, along with local case management to ensure that each refugee gets a fair start in his or her new country.

“This is very welcome news,” declared CWS Immigration and Refugee Programme Director, Erol Kekic, upon receiving the announcement last Friday from Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration in the US State Department.

Church World Service is one of 10 national voluntary agencies and one state agency entrusted by the US State Department to provide services to help newly arriving refugees move quickly toward becoming self-supporting members of their new communities.

In 2009, CWS and its affiliate network resettled 6,428 of the total US arrivals of 74,652. It expects to receive more than 7,000 refugees in 2010.

“Church World Service sincerely thanks Assistant Secretary Schwartz and his colleagues at the Admissions Office and the US Congress, for their tireless work to make possible this increase in the public contribution to the US refugee program’s public-private partnership,” Kekic declared.

In a conference call with colleagues from CWS’s community-based refugee resettlement affiliates in 21 states, made shortly after receiving the news, Kekic’s report on the state department move was greeted with applause.

Aaron Tate, Director of Refugee Services for Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, a CWS affiliate, commented: “This increase will certainly improve the lives of all refugees. It really takes our ability to provide quality service to a new level. This more than doubling of assistance to clients radically improves the program. On our refugee clients’ behalf, and on behalf of the affiliates, I’d like to say thanks to those who worked for this positive change.”

Kekic added: “This good news clearly has boosted the morale of our hard-working local colleagues, who are on the front lines of welcoming newly arriving refugees. I expect that this increase in US government support also will motivate the many congregational co-sponsors and other volunteers, donors, employers and other community members to redouble their support for refugees.”

The increase takes effect immediately for all new refugee arrivals, and is retroactive for refugees who arrived from 1 January 2010.

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