What is the Match Grant program? More questions then answers

Your tax dollars:

This topic keeps coming up when we get refugee stories in local newspapers.  Usually a reporter is told that all the refugee resettlement agency gets is $900 (one time payment) per refugee to get them set up in apartments and usually the agency keeps $450 for its own administrative use.

Well there is also this optional Match Grant program described at the Office of Refugee Resettlement website here.  Frankly, some of this is not clear to me, but first here is a description of the program.

Program Goal

The goal of the Matching Grant program is to help refugees, certain Amerasians, Cuban and Haitian entrants, asylees, and certified victims of human trafficking attain economic self-sufficiency within four to six months from date of arrival into the United States.

General Background/ Program Description

The Voluntary Agency Matching Grant (MG) Program is part of the Division of Community Resettlement and is an alternative program to public assistance designed to enable refugees to become self-sufficient within 4 to 6 months from date of arrival into the U.S. Eligible grantees are Voluntary Agencies able to coordinate comprehensive multilingual, multicultural services for refugees at local sites – these same agencies are under Cooperative Agreements with the Department of State/Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).

The Matching Grant Program requires a match from private funds or donated goods and services to partner with monies provided by ORR. For Calendar Year 2007, the program achieved 80% self sufficiency for the 28,137 participants. In CY 2008, ORR funded $60 million to the Match Grant Program With a per capita of $2,200; the MG program will serve 27,272 clients through 230 local affiliates of the Voluntary Agencies.

Eligible Applicants

Competition is limited. Only agencies that have on-going relationships with refugees that have been established as a result of providing reception and placement services under the terms of a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are eligible to apply.

The theory sounds good with the idea being to get refugees established in a job and on their own with minimum welfare demands and public support.   But, here is what I would like to know.

How much does the refugee get each month for the 6 months of the program from the $2200 in cash the agency gets?  All of it? Or, does the agency get a cut of it for administration?

Does the refugee living in subsidized housing pay any rent out of this money?

By the way, the “match” part of this involves the agency getting together $1000 in cash or donated stuff to “match” the federal layout of the $2200 in cash (Public-Private partnership mythology).  The agency gets to set the value of the donated stuff and does anyone ever check to confirm the stuff is worth what they say it is? 

And, the program doesn’t kick in for the first 30 days, so that means the agency has to initially lay out for all the needs of the refugee in the initial resettlement period that are required by the State Department’s Operational Guidance, here.   Refugees aren’t then being billed for expenses the agency originally provided for, along with that airfare bill the the resettlement agency wants repaid, are they?

So a refugee could get a job, any old job, sometime in the six month period of the match grant and lose it in the 7th month and still count as being successfully self-sufficient, is that right?

And, at the end of the period, the refugee could then go right back on all sorts of public assistance, right?

Since the program is only supposed to be for refugees who have a really good shot at self-sufficiency, doesn’t this make for problems within the same apartment buildings or neighborhoods when refugees compare notes about who gets what from the government?

We spent $60 million on this prgram in FY2008.    Find a Match Grant program near you, here.

Check out the most recent report (2007) and see how your favorite volag fared, here. I’ll bet these numbers are pretty rotten for FY2009!

I wonder does any outside source check the volag stats on self-sufficiency?  Also, I wonder if there is any penalty for “out-migration” which I assume means that some refugee bags this whole program and moves?

Readers, our goal in writing this blog was to inform the general public about how the refugee resettlement program works.  If you can answer some of these questions, please do so in the comments so that we all can learn.

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