TAKE ACTION: Urge Congress to Prevent Drastic Cuts to Crucial Support for Refugees & Other Newcomers


July 9, 2024

Right now, Congress is negotiating legislation to fund the federal government for the upcoming fiscal year. One of the most critical sources of funding to support refugees and other newcomers – the Refugee and Entrant Assistance (REA) account – is at risk of facing a devastating shortfall. If Congress fails to sufficiently fund the account, vulnerable newcomer populations and the communities that welcome them may soon be left without access to vital programs and services. Meanwhile, some populations remain ineligible for needed benefits or are at risk of being completely cut off. Join us in urging Congress to prevent catastrophic cuts to our communities’ welcoming infrastructure and to provide vital support to those whom our nation has promised to protect.

The foundation of U.S. welcoming infrastructure faces dire cuts

Through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the REA account directly funds local communities’ efforts to provide core integration services to particularly vulnerable newcomer populations, including refugees, Cuban and Haitian entrants, Afghan and Ukrainian humanitarian parolees, unaccompanied children, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders and others. ORR services include job training, English language classes, school-based support for children and families, and trauma-informed case management services. In recent years, ORR has served increasing numbers of people across a growing range of communities, in part due to record arrivals of displaced Cubans and Haitians who are eligible to receive ORR services.

The REA account is the backbone of U.S. welcoming infrastructure, promoting the integration and economic success of refugees and other humanitarian arrivals so they can thrive in their new communities. However, REA funding faces tremendous precarity. Key programs are likely to face the repercussions of inadequate resources before the fiscal year ends in September.

Arriving Afghans remain unable to access crucial benefits and services

In response to ongoing displacement crises that began with the fall of Kabul in 2021 and the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Congress granted arriving humanitarian parolees from Afghanistan and Ukraine eligibility to receive certain ORR benefits. However, last September, Congress allowed ORR’s authorization to serve newly-arriving Afghans and Ukrainians to lapse, leaving the vast majority of Afghans and Ukrainians paroled into the U.S. after October 1st, 2023, cut off from benefits and services. Congress recently temporarily restored Ukrainians’ eligibility to access this crucial support, but it has yet to do so for Afghans. The vast majority of arriving Afghans remain unable to access needed services, and benefits eligibility for arriving Ukrainians is at risk of being cut off by the end of September.

Take action:

Join us in calling upon Congress to prevent drastic cuts to crucial services by robustly funding the Refugee and Entrant Assistance account for the upcoming fiscal year and ensure arriving Afghans and Ukrainians are able to access needed benefits. Here are three things you can do:

1. CONTACT YOUR TWO SENATORS AND ONE REPRESENTATIVE TODAY
On the right-hand side, you can send an email to your Members of Congress.

Sample email script: “My name is [insert name], and as your constituent from [City/Town] and a [person of faith/refugee/member of my community], I urge you to prevent drastic cuts to local communities’ capacity to provide core integration services for newcomer populations including refugees, Cuban and Haitian entrants, Afghan and Ukrainian humanitarian parolees, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, and others.

Specifically, I urge you to support robust funding for the Refugee and Entrant Assistance (REA) account in the Fiscal Year 2025 LHHS appropriations bill and to support authorization language that will ensure arriving Afghans and Ukrainians can access needed benefits that Congress previously authorized.

Prevent devastating cuts to crucial services and programs:

Through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the REA account directly funds communities providing services such as job training, English language classes, and trauma-informed case management. The REA account is the backbone of U.S. welcoming infrastructure, promoting the integration and economic success of refugees and other humanitarian arrivals so they can thrive in their new communities.

Investing in the REA account to fund the above programs and many other crucial services has a proven positive fiscal impact. According to a February 2024 report from the Department of Health and Human Services – that replicated a similar study conducted under the Trump administration – refugees and asylees had a net fiscal benefit of $124 billion over a fifteen-year period when taking into account the costs of ORR programming.

Despite the clear positive impact of investments in welcoming newcomers, REA funding faces tremendous precarity. Over the past several fiscal years, a significant proportion of the account’s resources have come from emergency supplemental funding. The FY 2024 National Security Supplemental this year included only a fraction of the dollars compared to supplemental funding the account received in prior years – so resources have already been dramatically slashed, and key programs are likely to face the repercussions of inadequate resources before the fiscal year ends in September.

All 50 states receive millions of ORR dollars through Refugee Support Services grants, and almost every state is currently expected to face significant cuts unless Congress acts to address the shortfall. I urge you to prevent devastating cuts in services by supporting $11.795 billion for the Refugee & Entrant Assistance Account in FY 2025.

Restore arriving Afghans’ access to needed benefits:

Last September, Congress failed to update legislation to extend ORR’s authorization to serve newly-arriving Afghans and Ukrainians. That means that almost all Afghans and Ukrainians paroled into the U.S. after October 1st, 2023, are cut off from benefits. Though Congress temporarily restored ORR eligibility for Ukrainians through the end of FY 2024, it has yet to do so for Afghans. The vast majority of newly-arriving Afghans remain cut off from needed services, and benefits eligibility for arriving Ukrainians is at risk of being cut off by the end of September. I urge you to support the inclusion of authorization language in the FY 2025 LHHS bill that restores access to benefits for arriving Afghans and extends benefits reauthorization for arriving Ukrainians through September 30th, 2025.

I urge you to invest in local communities’ capacity to welcome newcomers by robustly funding the Refugee and Entrant Assistance account and supporting authorization language to ensure arriving Afghans and Ukrainians are not cut off from needed benefits. Thank you.”

2. CALL YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
On the right-hand side, you will have the option to call your members of Congress by selecting the “phone” icon

“My name is [insert name], and as your constituent from [City/Town] and a [person of faith/refugee/member of my community], I urge you to prevent drastic cuts to local communities’ capacity to welcome refugees and other newcomers.

Specifically, I urge you to support robust funding for the Refugee and Entrant Assistance account in Fiscal Year 2025 appropriations, and to support authorization language that will ensure arriving Afghans and Ukrainians are not cut off from needed benefits.

Despite its clear positive impact, funding for the Refugee and Entrant Assistance account is at risk. Its resources have already been dramatically slashed, and key programs are likely to face the repercussions of inadequate funding by September. To prevent devastating cuts, I urge you to support $11.795 billion for the Refugee & Entrant Assistance Account in Fiscal Year 2025.

Investing in welcome has a positive fiscal impact. A February 2024 report from the Department of Health and Human Services found that refugees and asylees had a net fiscal benefit of $124 billion over a fifteen-year period.

I also urge you to support the inclusion of authorization language in the FY 2025 LHHS bill that restores access to benefits for arriving Afghans and extends benefits reauthorization for arriving Ukrainians through September 30th, 2025. Thank you.”

3. POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA

@legislator Investing in welcome strengthens our communities. Congress must robustly fund the programs and services that help refugees and other newcomers integrate and thrive.

@legislator The foundation of our nation’s welcoming infrastructure is at risk of dire cuts that would jeopardize vulnerable newcomers’ access to vital services. Congress must robustly fund the Refugee and Entrant Assistance account to ensure our communities can thrive.

@legislator Many Afghans arriving in the U.S. remain cut off from crucial benefits and services. It is incumbent upon Congress to restore benefits eligibility for Afghans whom our nation promised to protect.

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