Oregon Lawmakers Seek Extra $18M For Refugee Resettlement

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As Oregon prepares to take in approximately 1,200 Afghan refugees in the next 12 months, state lawmakers are asking the Legislature’s emergency board for an additional $18 million to expand services and capacity.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported on Friday, that a letter — issued last week by state Rep. Khanh Pham and state Sen. Kayse Jama — outlined the need for the state to invest in everything from housing assistance and case management to legal services for newly arrived Afghans.

While dozens of refugees have already arrived in Oregon, 570 more people are expected to arrive by the end of February.

Currently, there are five resettlement agencies operating in Portland and Salem that are working to identify long-term housing while providing culturally-specific education — including language and job training, schooling for families with children and legal aid.

The $18 million requested by the two Democratic lawmakers is comprised of $5.3 million to support the Department of Human Services’ emergency management unit, $3.7 million to bolster case management and community outreach, $6 million for housing assistance and $2.9 million for legal services.

In addition, part of the funding request would create a full-time refugee housing coordinator to identify vacancies, coordinate placement among the five resettlement agencies and build relationships with property managers.

Dollars to provide legal services would support refugees arriving under “humanitarian parole” status who need to immediately apply for permanent immigration.

Sen. Jama said there isn’t a firm timeline on when the 18-member emergency board might meet to consider the request.