January 25, 2010 NEWS RELEASE — LIRS Applauds Increased Funding for Refugee Resettlement: State Department Doubles Reception and Placement Grant

Press Contact: Stacy Martin, Vice President for Mission Advacement
410-230-2847, lirspress@lirs.org

BALTIMORE, January 25, 2010 — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) applauds a recent U.S. State Department decision to increase the reception and placement grant for newly resettled refugees from $900 to $1,800 per capita. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz informed LIRS Vice President for Protection and Programs Susan Krehbiel of the change in a January 22 letter. The change is retroactive to January 1, 2010.

When refugees who cannot return to their home countries due to persecution or violence are admitted to the United States, they are resettled by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and other national organizations working through local programs to provide 30 to 90 days of reception services for newly arrived refugees. These services include meeting immediate needs such as housing, furnishings, clothing and food as well as assisting with access to social security cards, school enrollment, health care, employment services and English language instruction. In 2009 the United States admitted just under 80,000 refugees, of whom nearly 11,000 were welcomed by LIRS and its network of 24 affiliates serving in 46 communities across the country.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service drew attention to the need for increased funding for basic initial services in a 2009 report, The Real Cost of Welcome: A Financial Analysis of Local Refugee Reception. The report detailed the challenges faced by organizations that carry out the work of welcoming newly arrived refugees. “LIRS believes that private participation is an essential aspect of refugee resettlement,” the report stated, but noted “troubling strains on this public-private partnership due to the growing imbalance between federal resources and expectations and the increasing reliance upon our local partners to raise support.” Schwartz, who visited local resettlement programs after taking office last July, acknowledged that previous increases in the per capita grant had not kept pace with increased actual costs, stating that “the grant has declined in real terms by more than 50% since its inception some decades ago.”

The per capita grant directly benefits refugees and offsets local program costs of overseeing services to newcomers. Of the $1,800 per capita, $1,100 is designated for direct support of refugees. Of this, at least $900 must be spent on the needs of each refugee, but local agencies will have the flexibility to allocate up to $200 to augment funding more vulnerable refugees. The remaining $700 is designated for program management, and should allow local programs to increase staffing or otherwise improve the quality of their services.

Krehbiel expressed appreciation on behalf of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: “We are grateful to Assistant Secretary Schwartz for the personal interest he has taken in hearing our concerns about the adverse effect of underfunding on refugees and on resettlement services. He took the next step of studying the issue and arrived at a very welcome decision. The State Department’s action will make a profound difference for refugees as they take on the challenge of rebuilding their lives in a new country.”

LIRS President-Elect Linda Hartke stated, “This is wonderful news. The increased funding for reception and placement will significantly enhance Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s ability to help refugees get started on the road to successful integration. We are thankful that the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration shares our desire to foster a spirit of welcome for newcomers in American communities.”

The broader Lutheran community is also lauding the announcement and LIRS’s role in advocating for this welcome and necessary change. The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, commented, “Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service plays an invaluable role in consistently and insistently holding the needs of refugees in the forefront of public policy decision-making. This change in U.S. government policy constitutes a critically necessary increase of resources to provide for the humane resettlement and welcome of refugees into local communities. Lutherans have been in the forefront of refugee response in this country for over 70 years. This decision will make an immediate and significant difference in the lives of many, many people who both seek and deserve a hospitable welcome in the United States.”

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is a champion for uprooted people and is one of the nation’s leading agencies serving refugees and immigrants. LIRS helps people seeking safety from persecution in their home countries and reunites families torn apart by conflict. LIRS resettles refugees and protects vulnerable children who arrive alone in the United States. LIRS advocates for compassion and justice for all migrants.