LOWELL – State Senator Jamie Eldridge (Democrat for Acton) and Rep. Vanna Howard (Democrat for Lowell) are calling on Senate and House committees to fund $ 12 million to fund the resettlement of Afghan refugees here in Massachusetts.
A couple of lawmakers co-authored a letter requesting that $ 12 million be included in the FY2021 supplemental budget. Massachusetts is expected to host at least 1,000 Afghan refugees next year. In preparation, Howard and Eldridge worked actively with resettlement agencies, faith groups, and non-profit organizations in their communities to help acclimate new families.
“The refugee issue is very personal to me – from my direct experience of the struggle to working on this issue for almost two decades,” Howard said. “This funding is critical to providing the six resettlement agencies with the support they need to help our new Afghan refugees arriving in our Commonwealth. Supporting this funding will send a strong signal that our Fellowship welcomes incoming refugees and continues to support diversity. ”
“During the war, these Afghan refugees risked their lives and the lives of their families by partnering with the US government, our American military and women, and the diplomatic corps in Afghanistan,” Senator Eldridge said. “It is now our responsibility and obligation to help them and their loved ones ensure safe relocation to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I hope government assistance can be provided to resettlement agencies that provide local support to help these Afghan families find a new home in Massachusetts. ”
In their letter, lawmakers proposed $ 7.5 million to help the estimated arrival of 1,000 to 1,500 refugees. Legislators have said this is a proposed $ 5,000 cost per person entering the state. About 75% of the money will go to direct support, including clothing, food and housing. The remaining 25% would support resettlement agencies providing integrated services.
An additional $ 4.5 million will be allocated for legal aid, designed to help people secure immigration to the United States and, ultimately, on the path to citizenship.
The US Department of State currently allocates 40% of expected arrivals from Afghanistan to resettlement agencies nationwide. There are six agencies in Massachusetts, including the Catholic Refugee and Immigrant Charity, New England International Institute, Ascentria Care Alliance, Refugee and Immigrant Aid Center, Western Massachusetts Jewish Family Service, and Metrovest Jewish Family Service.
Both legislators believe the $ 12 million will be a “strong signal” that Massachusetts is welcoming these families, a sentiment echoed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in comments.
“Over the years, these resettlement agencies have worked tirelessly to raise private donations while coordinating state and federal grants to support incoming refugees from around the world,” Eldridge and Howard wrote. “We truly believe that Commonwealth assistance is critical to supporting the resettlement of refugees, especially for this round of Afghan evacuees to our nation with safety and dignity.”