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Testimony on Recommendations for FY 1997 Refugee Admissions by Lavinia Limon
Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration
September 26, 1996

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to submit this testimony in behalf of the President's recommendations for fiscal year 1997 refugee admissions.

The President's budget request of $381,536,000 for the refugee and entrant assistance program in FY 1997 is based on an expected 78,000 refugee and 12,000 entrant arrivals. With this budget request, we would be able to maintain current services in the program.


The major goal of this program is to provide assistance in order to help refugees achieve economic self-sufficiency and social adjustment within the shortest time possible following their arrival in the U.S. For FY 1996, approximately $407 million was available through six different programs: cash and medical assistance, so-called "alternative programs" under the Wilson/Fish authority, social services, preventive health services, the voluntary agency matching grant program, and the targeted assistance grant program.

Cash and medical assistance (RCA/RMA) are available to needy refugees -- who are not eligible for other cash or medical assistance programs, such as the assistance under title IV-A of the Social Security Act, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Medicaid -- who arrive in the U.S. with few or no financial resources. This refugee assistance, if needed, is paid entirely from federal funds and is available only for a limited number of months following arrival in the U.S.; currently RCA/RMA are available for a refugee's first 8 months in the U.S.

We also reimburse states for the costs incurred in the case of refugee children in the U.S. who are identified in countries of first asylum as unaccompanied minors. Depending on their individual needs, refugee children are placed in foster care, group care, independent living, or residential treatment.

At the State and local level, there has been a good deal of activity around creating alternative programs using the "Fish/Wilson" authority. Under this authority we develop alternative projects which promote early employment of refugees. For example, in New York City, one of the largest resettlement sites in the United States, the State, City, voluntary agencies and the Office of Refugee Resettlement have developed a privatized 12-month refugee program that is inclusive of all newly arriving refugees. Refugees will receive their assistance from voluntary agencies who will also be responsible for early employment outcomes through intensive case management. This program will begin October 1.

This authority provides to States, voluntary resettlement agencies and others the opportunity to develop innovative approaches for the provision of cash and medical assistance, social services and case management. Some projects were established when the State government decided not to continue administering the program, such as in Kentucky and Nevada, and some projects are being established as refugee-specific alternatives to categorical aid programs.

To help refugees become self-supporting as quickly as possible, we also provide funding to state governments and private, non-profit agencies which are responsible for providing services, such as English language and employment training. Refugees receiving cash and medical assistance are required to be enrolled in employment services and to accept offers of employment.

For FY 1996, funds were provided to the Public Health Service to monitor overseas medical screening for U.S.-bound refugees. ORR provided grants to state public health departments for preventive health assessment and treatment services to refugees for protection of the public health against contagious diseases.

Under the Voluntary Agency Matching Grant Program agencies match Federal funds from private funds or in-kind goods and services. During the refugees, first four months in the U.S., several voluntary resettlement agencies take responsibility for resettling refugees and assisting them to become self-sufficient through private initiatives without recourse to public assistance.

The Targeted Assistance Grants program targets additional resources to communities facing extraordinary resettlement problems because of a high concentration of refugees and a high use of public assistance by the resident refugee population. Special efforts are directed to those refugees who depend upon public assistance.

Refugees may be referred to a variety of programs, such as those mentioned above, or they may receive help through the mainstream, categorical programs. Refugees qualify for the categorical programs on the same basis as citizens.

Recent changes in the program

It 1996, we sharpened our focus on newer refugee arrivals, stressing the need to provide refugee-specific, culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Final regulations published in FY 1995 for the first time directed states to target refugee specific employment and other social adjustment services to refugees and entrants who have been in the United States for less than five years. As a result of this change, 15 new counties. will receive this impact aid.

As I've indicated previously to the Committee, we believe that the domestic refugee resettlement program must be able to respond quickly, visibly, and flexibly in providing refugee specific services in response to refugee crises. one new discretionary initiative called, "Unanticipated Arrivals" has had an excellent beginning. This initiative provides timely funding to public and private providers in order to respond to unforeseen refugee arrivals. Similarly, the new Preferred Communities discretionary program initiative encourages resettlement where refugees have the best opportunity for early self-sufficiency. In addition, in coordination with the Department of State and the public and private sectors we have begun a review of refugee placement planning. The objective of this review is to improve and enhance refugees integration into U.S. society, particularly as it relates to self-sufficiency and social adjustment.


I hope I have presented to this committee a concise overview of the domestic refugee program. Next year, the program must be reauthorized and I very much look forward to working with the Committee throughout the process. The President, in an August 22 Directive, has already started us on this process by requesting that we set out a strategy of additional steps that we can take for refugees and asylees to promote social adjustment in the United States, economic self-sufficiency, and naturalization.

I would be pleased to answer any questions.

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