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ACA Tracks Progress of the Resettlement of Refugees; Identifies Resources for Counselors

by Brian D. Banks | Sep 07, 2021
ACA would like to update counselors on the federal government’s support for the refugees settling in the United States.

The American Counseling Association (ACA) is paying close attention to the rapid developments in Afghanistan. We recognize that counselors may play a critical role in support services for Afghan refugees. Due to the ever-changing policy, ACA would like to update counselors on the federal government’s support for the refugees settling in the United States. We will also point you to the resources you may need in your specialization to support your work and potentially your new refugee clients.

In July 2021, the Biden administration initiated Operation Allies Refuge to quickly admit and resettle individuals from Afghanistan who have worked for the U.S. government. The operation initially supported relocation flights exclusively for Afghan nationals eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). However, in response to escalating violence, the Biden administration recently created a Priority 2 designation for its U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to expand the pool of Afghans eligible for relocation to include those ineligible for an SIV, but who worked as contractors, locally-employed staff, interpreters, or translators for U.S. and NATO forces. Individuals admitted as a part of the operation will be granted an SIV, temporary Special Immigrant parole or will be resettled through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. All individuals admitted as a part of the operation will be eligible for ORR refugee benefits and services.

The ORR provides time-limited cash and medical assistance to new arrivals as well as services to support educational attainment and financial stability among refugee families. Please see below for a summary of the key programs and services offered by the ORR:

  • The Cash & Medical Assistance (CMA) Program: The CMA program reimburses states for 100 percent of the cost to administer Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) programs. RMA programs are available to any refugee who is ineligible for Medicaid and provides a comparable level of coverage for up to 8 months after arrival. In addition to providing access to healthcare for new entrants, RMA programs fund Refugee Medical Screening (RMS) upon arrival in the U.S. to facilitate early detection of health issues.
  • The Individual Development Accounts (IDA) Program: The program supports refugees’ efforts to save for one of the following assets: (1) a car; (2) a home; (3) a business; or (4) post-secondary education. For qualifying individuals, the IDA program provides: (1) financial literacy training; (2) asset-specific financial training; and (3) a match of $1 for every $1 saved up to $2,000 for an individual or $4,000 for a household.
  • The Ethnic Community Self-Help (ECSH) Program: The ECSH program awards grants to ethnic, community-based organizations for 3-year projects to help refugees: (1) find employment; (2) learn English; (3) prepare for college; (4) attain citizenship; or (5) develop a sense of community.
  • The Refugee School Impact (RSI) Program: The RSI program funds state programs developed to strengthen academic performance and ease the social adjustment of newly arrived refugee youth. States are encouraged to design services according to the needs of their communities by partnering with a range of stakeholders, including school administrators and mental health providers.
  • The Preferred Communities (PC) Program: The PC program provides grants to domestic resettlement agencies to support refugees with serious medical conditions as well as at risk women and the elderly. Through the program, eligible refugees are provided medical and mental health care, among other services. 
  • The Refugee Health Promotion (RHP) Program: The RHP program awards grants to community organizations promoting the health and well-being of refugees by: (1) providing opportunities to increase health literacy; (2) organizing wellness groups; and (3) providing medical and mental health navigation and support.

To address the new influx of refugees, the ORR is awarding $20 million in supplemental aid to support administration of the aforementioned programs, among others, in states receiving the greatest number of Afghan refugees. Additionally, the ORR recently announced new funding for the RHP program in 45 qualifying states. 

As the crisis in Afghanistan unfolds, members of Congress most engaged on refugee issues have used their influence to demand President Biden follow through on his promise to evacuate all Afghan allies but have been less outspoken about how refugees should be resettled once in the country. However, the ORR has been planning for this influx for months and, as a result, will likely shape the country’s resettlement efforts.

The ORR relies heavily on grants to NGOs, charities, and state agencies to achieve their priorities. As a result, there may be an opportunity for ACA to partner will local organizations to support efforts to compassionately resettle Afghan refugees. The ECSH, RSI, and RHP programs rely on local organizations to provide employment, education, and health services to refugees. ACA will continue to look for partnership opportunities  to support our members and will provide updates  accordingly.

Please click here for additional information on the services offered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Office of Refugee Resettlement.

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