Refugee public assistance

two men consulting at table in large workspace

When I first arrived in the USA, I qualified as many others do to receive the types of public assistance that are available under the refugee program.

When I first arrived in the US, I qualified as many others to receive the types of public assistance that are available under the refugee program. However, navigating those services on my own was very hard and confusing since I did not have the support of a resettlement agency.

I lived in an area that rarely resettles refugees, and I had to advocate myself after my application for benefits got denied in the beginning.  What helped me to advocate for myself is being able to look for information online and learn about what the types of refugee public assistance I qualified for as a newcomer.

USAHello is an excellent resource of information about refugee benefits after arrival. I will share some of the additional resources.   

Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)
ORR is an office that belongs to the US Department of Health and Human Services. They are a trusted resource of information to learn about the refugee benefits available in your state. It is very important to mention that not only refugees qualify for their services, but also asylees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, special immigrant visa (SIV) holders, Amerasians, and victims of trafficking. In my experience as a resettlement case manager, people are often not aware of the services they are eligible for in their state.

Microenterprise Development (MED)
MED is a program that helps refugees and other qualified individuals obtain financial stability through small business training and loans. If accepted in the program, the individual can receive up to $ 15,000 and training to start or develop a business. Due to the nature of my work, I got to meet a few refugee business owners that with the support of similar programs, they were able to improve their businesses.

Refugee Career Pathways
I obtained my engineering degree from Iraq prior to arriving in the USA, but was not able to utilize my degree or my experiences. I share this experience with many professional refugees. This program supports refugees in obtaining the knowledge and the training to start a professional career in the USA. 

Services for older refugees
Refugee elders often struggle to find culturally and linguistically appropriate services. But they are eligible for access to senior centers, transportation, interpretation and translation, home care, citizenship services, food services.

Refugee Family Child Care Microenterprise
This program helps qualified individuals to start and run a daycare in their homes. The program provides training on how to run childcare, assistance in obtaining the appropriate license to run the childcare business, and financial support to buy supplies for the business.

Many refugees are eager to work immediately after arrival in the USA, and many become economically self-sufficient within a short period of time. At the start, different types of public assistance are needed and can provide very good support to refugee families when they first arrive in the United States. Keep in mind that those services are only for a limited time.

Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) cash and medical assistance is limited to a maximum of 8 months from the date of arrival and other services such as employment can be up to 5 years from the time of arrival. Accessing those services can help families gain financial stability and focus on building their family’s future in their new home.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.