Worcester, MA: Mass. Refugee Resettlement Agencies, the nonprofits tasked by the federal government with welcoming and resettling hundreds of Afghan immigrants, praised the inclusion of $12 million in the $3.65 billion House spending bill that draws from last year’s state budget surplus and over half of the American Rescue Plan funds. We are hopeful that the Senate will be equally supportive of this funding as the budget process moves forward.
Massachusetts is in the process of welcoming hundreds of Afghan citizens who were hastily evacuated from that country. Resettling refugees and providing the services that are needed to ensure their safe and effective transition to the United States is carried out by the Commonwealth’s refugee resettlement agencies with financial support from the federal government. However, to rapidly and effectively resettle the hundreds of individuals arriving to Mass. from Afghanistan, agencies have sought dedicated and robust funding from Massachusetts’ state government.
“We are incredibly grateful to Speaker Mariano, House Ways and Means Chair Michlewitz and House Division Leaders Ruth Balser (D- Newton) and Jim O’Day (D- Worcester), who championed this request, for their collective commitment to welcoming these new immigrants to our Commonwealth” said Jeff Thielman, President and CEO of the International Institute of New England.
Refugee resettlement agencies in Massachusetts have been extremely heartened by the outpouring of support from House and Senate leadership, the Governor, and the public at large for the effort to welcome Afghan evacuees to our Commonwealth.
While some federal funding has been allocated to support Afghan evacuees to Massachusetts and other states, our Commonwealth’s high cost of housing and cost of living has posed a significant challenge to the emergency resettlement of these individuals. The scarcity of affordable and available housing in many cities and towns is contributing to financially untenable situations for new arrivals.
“Individuals arriving in Massachusetts, especially those arriving quickly and as humanitarian parolees need strong wraparound services including housing, legal assistance, childcare, and job training,” said Aimee Mitchell, Chief of Community Services for Ascentria. Agency officials note that while there is some federal money that will come to the state to accompany these parolees, it is not nearly enough to cover the full cost needed to resettle them in any community in Massachusetts. “It goes to the very core of our mission and values to welcome and assist these individuals facing such hardship and danger in their native land, who hope to create a new life in our state and country,” added Mitchell.
As the Commonwealth faces a growing workforce shortage, new refugees and parolees are critical to filling the gaps. “These Afghan individuals arriving in Massachusetts will bring with them many skills and with proper support and job training, will be able to successfully integrate into our job market, filling job vacancies that exist, and becoming increasingly self-sufficient,” said Jeff Thielman, President & CEO of IINE.