How refugees get stuff: houses, businesses, education and cars

Your tax dollars:

Yesterday a reader asked about special deals for refugees and I was reminded of the Individual Development Accounts—a special savings plan for refugees that provides matching taxpayer money—which I haven’t mentioned for a long time.  I see now there is new information at the site—a list of the 22 organizations and agencies in the country where this sweet deal is available to refugees this past fiscal year.

Here are the objectives right from the ORR website:

The objectives of the IDA Program are to increase the ability of low-income refugees to save; promote their participation in the financial institutions of this country; assist refugees in advancing their education; increase home ownership; and assist refugees in gaining access to capital.

Program description:

Individual development accounts are matched savings accounts available for the purchase of specific assets. Under the IDA program, the matching funds, together with the refugee’s own savings from their employment, are available for purchasing one (or more) of four savings goals: home purchase; microenterprise capitalization; post secondary education or training; and in some cases, purchase of an automobile if necessary to maintain or upgrade employment.

IDA grantees provide matched savings accounts to refugees whose annual income is less than 200 percent of the poverty level and whose assets, exclusive of a personal residence and one vehicle, are less than $10,000. Grantees provide matches [using your tax dollars] of up to $1 for every $1 deposited by a refugee in a savings account. The total match amount provided may not exceed $2,000 for individuals or $4,000 for households. Upon enrolling in an IDA program, a refugee signs a savings plan agreement which specifies the savings goal, the match rate, and the amount the refugee will save each month.

In addition, the IDA grantees provide basic financial training which is intended to assist refugees in understanding the American financial system, budgeting, saving, and credit. The IDA grantees also provide training focused on the specific savings goals. The specialized training ensures that refugees receive appropriate information on purchasing and managing their asset purchases.

Here are the 22 organizations and agencies that received money in FY09 (we have already begun FY10):

1 Alliance for Multicultural Community Service Inc. Houston TX

2 Cambodian Mutual Assistance Assoc of Greater Lowell Lowell MA

3 Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County San Jose CA

4 Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden Camden NJ

5 Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg, Inc. St. Petersburg FL

6 Diocese of Olympia Seattle WA

7 ECDC Enterprise Development Group Arlington VA

8 Economic & Community Development Institute Columbus OH

9 International Rescue Committee New York NY

10 Maine Department of Health & Human Services Augusta ME

11 Mountain States Group, Inc. Boise ID

12 Neighborhood Assets Spokane WA

13 United Way, Inc. Los Angeles CA

14 Western Kentucky Refugee Mutual Assistance Society Bowling Green KY

15 Lao Family Community Development, Inc. Oakland CA

16 World Relief DuPage Wheaton IL

17 Women’s Opportunities Resource Center Philadelphia PA

18 ISED Ventures Des Moines IA

19 Business Center for New Americans New York NY

20 International Institute of Metropolitan St. Louis St. Louis MO

21 Jewish Family & Vocational Services, Inc. Louisville KY

22 Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Inc. Nashville TN

I wonder how much of the money went for administering the program.

By the way, note near the end of the ORR web page there is a link to a document that summarizes how much of your money has been redistributed with the help of 54 grantees since 1999.

Reforms needed:   I can’t tell you the number of times I hear from annoyed citizens about how refugees get stuff that other Americans don’t get and it is creating tension in some “welcoming” cities—-mostly because the citizens don’t know how the refugees are getting the stuff.

This program is a prime example of the point I have made from the beginning of writing this blog.  If the government, through our elected officials, thinks this is such an important initiative it should be discussed in public forums (in the local paper, etc.)  in those cities and states where the program is available.    All the facts about refugee resettlement must be made public, it shouldn’t be left to citizens to dig around on obscure websites for information.    

I suspect that a large part of the reason for the secrecy is that government officials know that there will be anger, if the program were thoroughly discussed.

If I’m wrong and the program is well-publicized, I welcome anyone sending me links to news clippings where this program has been made public and I will post those links.

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