Lawmakers are calling on the mass legislature to fund resettlement in Afghanistan

LOWELL – Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and State Rep. Vanna Howard (D-Lowell) urge the Senate and House Ways and Means Committees to allocate $ 12 million to resettling refugees from Afghanistan, here in Massachusetts.

The two MPs have jointly drafted a letter calling for $ 12 million to be added to a supplementary budget for the 2021 financial year. Massachusetts is expected to host at least 1,000 refugees from Afghanistan over the next year. In preparation, Howard and Eldridge have been actively working with resettlement organizations, faith groups, and nonprofits in their communities to help the new families settle in.

“The refugee issue is very personal to me – from experiencing firsthand combat to working on the issue for nearly two decades,” said Howard. “This funding is critical to provide the six resettlement organizations with the support they need to help our new Afghan refugees entering our Commonwealth. Supporting this funding would send a strong signal that our Commonwealth welcomes incoming refugees and continues to recognize diversity. “

“During the war, these Afghan refugees risked their lives and those of their families while working with the US government, our American military and the diplomatic corps in Afghanistan,” said Senator Eldridge. “It is now our responsibility and obligation to help them and their loved ones ensure safe relocation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I hope that the resettlement organizations that support these local Afghan families can get government support to help them find a new home in Massachusetts. “

In their letter, lawmakers suggested allocating $ 7.5 million to support the expected arrival of 1,000 to 1,500 refugees. Legislators said it was a cost of $ 5,000 per person entering the state. About 75% of the money would be used for direct assistance, including clothing, food and shelter. The other 25% would support the relocation agencies who can provide evidence of all-round services.

Another $ 4.5 million would be allocated to legal aid aimed at helping individuals immigrate safely to the United States with a possible route to citizenship.

Currently, the US State Department is allocating 40% of expected arrivals from Afghanistan to resettlement agencies across the country. There are six agencies in Massachusetts, including: Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigrant Services, the International Institute of New England, Ascentria Care Alliance, Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center, Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts, and Jewish Family Service of Metrowest.

Both lawmakers believe the $ 12 million would send a “strong message” that Massachusetts welcomes these families – a sentiment that is reflected in comments from Republican Governor Charlie Baker.

“For many years, these relocation organizations have worked tirelessly to raise private donations while coordinating state and federal grants to support incoming refugees from around the world,” write Eldridge and Howard. “We sincerely believe that assistance from the Commonwealth is critical to assisting refugee resettlement, especially for this round of Afghan evacuees in our state with safety and dignity.”

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