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Influx of Young Refugees Pinches Kentucky Refugee Services' Budget

An increase of undocumented children coming into America is expected to reduce the funding for services available to displaced people living in Kentucky and across the U.S.Kentucky Office for Refugees officials expect to see a $2.28 million cut in federal funding to provide refugees in Kentucky with services such as English language learning, career development and housing placement. The reduction in funding stems from an influx of children coming to the U.S. to escape violence and economic struggle in Central America, refugee services officials said.  To better serve these children, the Office for Refugee Resettlement is transferring nearly $94 million to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program.  The $2.28 million Kentucky officials expect to lose is a part of the $94 million transfer.Because of the cuts, thousands of newly arrived refugees would receive a limited amount of these services that aid in creating a seamless transfer to life in America, according to a statement released by Catholic Charities of Louisville.The impact statewide, according to Catholic Charities of Louisville,  is expected to be:

  • 2,200 refugee children would lose services in six Kentucky public school districts;
  • 2,900 employable refugee adults would no longer have assistance in locating employment or learning English;
  • 3,700 newly arrived refugees would not get basic case management services, including assistance with medical appointments, transportation, housing and access to mainstream services

“It’s very unfortunate, especially here in Louisville where refugee resettlement has been working,” said John Koehlinger, the executive director of Kentucky Refugee Ministries.He said despite the cuts and loss of some services, refugees arriving in Louisville and Kentucky will still be provided with basic services, as required by federal law.But if the cuts create such a problem that services cannot be provided, a smaller number of refugees may be brought to the United States, Koehlinger added.More than 2,100 refugees relocated to Louisville in the 2013 fiscal year, according to data provided by Catholic Charities of Louisville.  In 2014, the number is expected to remain about the same.Since the early 1990s, more than 25,000 refugees have relocated to Louisville for resettlement and/or services, according to the data.Koehlinger said the strong refugee population in Louisville is vital for a productive, balanced metropolitan area.“Refugees are achieving a lot of success on their own, for the benefit of the city,” he said.Refugee populations fill vacant job positions, they pay taxes, they provide ridership for public transportation and they bring stability back to struggling neighborhoods, Koehlinger said.“When I see these cuts, they are really across the board,” he said.  “The program has really developed over the years and I’d hate to see us go back and not be able to provide the quality of service we have over the years.”Though the cuts are not yet certain, Koehlinger said his organization is developing contingent plans on how to manage the impact of the smaller budget.  

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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