Friday, August 8, 2014

Feds restore refugee funding that had been cut to address southern border crisis

Posted By on Fri, Aug 8, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Feds restore refugee funding that had been cut to address southern border crisis
Young Kwak photo
Rwandan refugee Emmanuel Rucyahana, right, tries a carrot during a nutrition workshop at World Relief Spokane last week. Funding for workshops like this one had been redirected to address immigration at the southern border but has now been restored.

We wrote this week about a pot of federal funding that's meant to help refugees — like the 600 or so World Relief Spokane helps resettle every year — but is being stretched thin by the growing number of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S./Mexico border. The funding currently provides classes to refugees on basic skills, like banking and cooking, and helps those who want to apply for permanent residency. It also supports three mental health programs for refugees on the westside. When the federal government decided to withhold this funding recently in order to redirect it to the border, local agencies worried they'd have to cut staff or start charging refugees for services.

Today, a rare happy update to a story about budget cuts: The federal agency that had decided to redirect this funding has changed its mind.

"Although Congress has not approved the additional funding that President Obama requested, there has been a decrease in the rate of [unaccompanied minors] arrivals," Tom Medina wrote the Inlander in an email late Thursday afternoon. Medina oversees the state office that distributes the federal funds to local groups like World Relief. "During the conference call, [the Office of Refugee Resettlement] reported the year-to-date total of UAC’s in the U.S. stood at 54,000 through the end of July. ORR is projecting that the total by September 30 will be around 60,000, which is what they had originally budgeted for."

"This," Medina wrote, "means that we will be able to restore the RRA and Mental Health contracts that we had to terminate last month."

Read more about the local trickle-down effects of the border crisis here.

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About The Author

Heidi Groover

Heidi Groover is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers city government and drug policy. On the job, she's spent time with prostitutes, "street kids," marriage equality advocates and the family of a 16-year-old organ donor...