Oregon Legislature approves $18 million in additional support for Afghan refugee resettlement

·3 min read

Resettlement agencies in Oregon committed to receiving Afghan refugees have a goal of resettling 1,200 families by September. Salem's resettlement agency, Salem for Refugees, will welcome at least 100 Afghan people in the city by Feb. 15.

Oregon will help agencies meet that goal and ensure that all refugees coming to Salem and the state will thrive in their new homes, said Luke Glaze, executive director of Salem for Refugees.

Millions in assistance

The House convenes for the second special session of 2021 on Monday. A bill passed during the session would allocate funding for resettlement of Afghan refugees.
The House convenes for the second special session of 2021 on Monday. A bill passed during the session would allocate funding for resettlement of Afghan refugees.

SB5561 – passed in a special legislative session on Monday – approved more than $400 million in funding to address various issues such as rent assistance, farmers facing drought and illegal marijuana grow operations.

The bill allocated $18 million to support Afghan individuals and families with housing, education, legal aid, job training and culturally-specific support as they settle in the state.

Of that $18 million, $5.25 million has been earmarked for short-term food and shelter, $2.9 million will support case management services, $5.9 million will be for rental assistance and $2.89 million is for immigration and legal services. An additional $807,600 will be available for culturally specific assistance and interpretation classes.

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Glaze said the money for housing was critical. The speed of resettlement means agencies are not always able to target affordable units.

"Additional funding can help us be a little more flexible and even target more market-rate units," he said. "Which will be very helpful for families as they get on their feet and work toward self-sustainability and self-sufficiency."

Refugees arriving in Oregon receive initial resettlement support during a 90-day window. The additional case management funding will help the agency provide this initial support and help the organization provide extended case management past the mandated service window, said Glaze.

"That's really important," he said. "In the state of Oregon we want to make sure families are thriving and not just being resettled here rapidly and then kind of left and not helped through the process of adjusting to a new culture, climate and all that goes along with that."

Ongoing effort

More than 70,000 Afghan families fled to the U.S. in August following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and withdrawal of U.S troops.

State lawmakers quickly urged support and signaled a readiness to welcome refugees.

The state deployed its emergency management plan quickly and resettlement agencies grew from three to five in the past couple of months, representing quick growth in capacity to support refugees.

Ready welcome: Salem prepares for refugee family as state leaders urge support

Salem for Refugees had been working to become an official resettlement agency and received expedited approval in November to support the Afghan refugee crisis in the state.

“I have been heartened these last few months to see support from Oregonians across the state willing to step up, offering what they can to respond to this humanitarian crisis,” said Rep. Khan Pham, D-Portland, in a statement celebrating the approval.

Rep. Khanh Pham talks with a fellow lawmaker during the legislative session in June.
Rep. Khanh Pham talks with a fellow lawmaker during the legislative session in June.

Pham and Rep. Kayse Jama, D-Portland, led the effort to bolster the state’s response to the Afghanistan crisis. They collaborated with agencies like Salem for Refugees and community partners around the state. According to Glaze, the agencies working together included Catholic Community Services of Lane County, Catholic Charities of Oregon, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization.

“This funding will not only prevent families from falling through the cracks as they begin the next chapter of their lives in Oregon but will also be a strategic economic investment for our state. By welcoming Afghan families today, our state will benefit for many years to come,” added Jama in the statement.

The bill has been sent to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk for consideration.

"We feel incredibly fortunate to be in a state that has put this as a priority," Glaze said.

Dianne Lugo is a reporter at the Statesman Journal covering equity and social justice. You can reach her at dlugo@statesmanjournal.com, 503-936-4811 or on Twitter @DianneLugo.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: State Legislature approves additional support for refugee resettlement

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