Members of Congress returned to their home districts this week after passing a temporary bill that only funds the government until December 11th. As LIRS continues to advocate for adequate funding for migrant and refugee programs for the next fiscal year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) announced that it will be restoring $71.5 million it had previously held back from refugee services this past year.
ORR is the agency that cares for children who arrive to the United States unaccompanied, along with other vulnerable migrants, including refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of torture and trafficking. The money was originally reprogrammed within ORR’s budget to ensure children from Central America seeking refuge in the United States had appropriate services.
With funds for refugee programs on hold, service providers and LIRS partners such as RefugeeOne in Chicago had to restructure their programming. For some, this meant reducing staff or even some services for refugees, such as tutoring or healthcare programs, which help newly arrived refugees transition to different school and healthcare systems and become valuable members of their new communities. For example, Melineh Kano, Executive Director of RefugeeOne, reported that without federal funding for their K-12 school transition assistance program, the program would essentially shut down in August.
HHS had originally set aside $94 million to ensure it could serve the vulnerable children in its care but had recently released $22.5 million. The agency announced that all of the funds will be restored because of the recent decrease of children and families seeking safety from Central America, increased efficiency in operations, and expanded capacity at standard shelters.
Although releasing the funds will allow services and programs for refugees to continue in FY 14, ORR must receive robust funding in FY 15 to ensure it can continue to serve all migrants under its care.
As Congress returns to their districts for the next seven weeks and continues to discuss the budget, please make sure your voices are heard by visiting our Action Center to urge your Member of Congress to support critical funding for refugees and migrants.