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Western Massachusetts Resettlement Agencies Hustle To Prepare For Afghan Refugees

A sign, in rainbow colors, welcoming refugees.
Ra Dragon
Creative Commons

Refugee resettlement agencies are rushing to find resources for people who will be arriving from Afghanistan.

Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts President Maxine Stein declined to say how many refugees will be coming to the region, because the organization is still figuring out those details. Right now, she said, they are trying to find housing in the area and explore funding options.

"There'll be a scramble making sure that we can meet these needs and how are we going to meet these needs when there's no funding and how are we going to meet these needs when they're not eligible for all of the different support grants that we have," Stein says. "It's going to take really more help probably from the community, even with housing."

Stein said once they find housing for new arrivals, the agency will work to help them get employment and health care. Community residents, she said, are welcome to assist.

Financial support for the effort is affected by the way the federal government classifies incoming people. So-called humanitarian parolees are not eligible for many of the federal benefits usually received by refugees.

"Individuals arriving in Massachusetts, especially those arriving quickly and as humanitarian parolees, need strong wraparound services including housing, legal assistance, childcare and job training," said Aimee Mitchell, chief of community service for another resettlement agency, Ascentria.

Mitchell said the federal government will supply some funding to accompany humanitarian parolees, but not enough to cover the full cost of their resettlement in a state like Massachusetts, where affordable housing can be particularly scarce.

This report contains information from State House News Service.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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