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The refugee resettlement program coordinates services to assist refugees in making the transition to life in the United States. These services include resettlement and placement, cash and medical assistance, and employment and social services.
Refugees are people who have had to flee their country of origin and are unable to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution. There are millions of refugees today in camps under the protection of the United Nations. When no other options exist, the United States, as well as most Western nations, provides refugees an opportunity for permanent resettlement. Most refugees resettled over the last two decades have been Southeast Asians, but more recently the population has become more diverse with people from countries in strife, such as Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Liberia, Iraq and the former Soviet Union.
The Refugee Assistance Program, authorized by the federal Refugee Act of 1980, provides federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesí Office of Refugee Resettlement to the states for refugee assistance.
Initial resettlement services
Voluntary resettlement agencies, or volags, specialize in providing initial resettlement services to refugees during their first three months in the United States. This includes working with relatives to ensure that refugees have food, shelter, medical screening and access to social services.
Cash and Medical Assistance
Most of the refugees who are resettled in Minnesota are members of families with minor children who qualify for the same cash and medical assistance programs available to other low-income state residents through county human service agencies (PDF). They are predominately two-parent families.
Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) are provided to needy refugees who do not have minor children in the home. These benefits, which are federally funded, are available for the first eight months after a refugee arrives in the country. These benefits are provided through county human service agencies and voluntary resettlement agencies (for refugees in the Twin Cities metro area and Olmstead County.)
Services are also provided to assist unaccompanied minors without a responsible adult relative resettle into a foster home placement. The federal government reimburses the state for these services, which are provided until the minors are emancipated or reunited with their parents.
Refugee social services
Eligibility for services is limited to refugees during their first five years in this country except for some programs, which are funded by discretionary grants. Priority for services is given to new arrivals within their first year.
Culturally appropriate and bilingual employment services are provided to refugees through contracts with community organizations. Services include orientation to work in the United States, job-seeking skills, job development, on-the-job training, job placement and follow up to facilitate job retention.
Though enrollment in the program is voluntary, contract outcomes for the vendors are based on enabling families and individuals to achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Non-employment services may also be provided to refugees who encounter difficulties in adjusting to life in the United States. These services include information and referral, home management, parenting skills, education, immigration and naturalization, and translation and interpretation assistance.
Refugee social services are provided entirely through federal funding from several sources. Federal grants are awarded based on the percentage of refugees that resettled in the state over the three previous fiscal years. Targeted assistance grants provide for services in impacted counties (for which Hennepin and Ramsey counties currently qualify.) Minnesota has also successfully competed for discretionary grants.
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