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State Letter #09-14

Guidance on Requests for Approval of 45 CFR 400.155(h) "Other services”

Published: June 25, 2009
Types:
State Letter
Tags:
housing emergency

TO: STATE REFUGEE COORDINATORS
WILSON/FISH ALTERNATIVE PROGRAMS
OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES

FROM: Eskinder Negash
Director
Office of Refugee Resettlement

SUBJECT: Guidance on Requests for Approval of 45 CFR 400.155(h) "Other services”

This letter is for informational purposes and provides guidance to those entities responsible for statewide refugee programs that may wish to consider requesting approval to provide transitional housing assistance for refugees using Refugee Social Services (RSS) formula program funds. The regulatory provisions that allow for such requests can be found at 45 CFR 400.155(h), “any additional service.” This letter is directed to states, Wilson/Fish agencies, and replacement designees as they weigh different options to help refugees become self-sufficient in the current economic climate.

Background:

The Refugee Act of 1980 makes clear that the mission of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is to help refugees become self-sufficient by finding employment as quickly as possible after their arrival in the United States. Under the current economic climate, many jurisdictions have cited the shortage of affordable and available housing as a barrier to helping refugees achieve economic and social self-sufficiency. In particular, the lack of adequate housing options appears to create additional roadblocks to helping refugees find and retain employment.

Discussion:

Those state entities that are experiencing problems in finding affordable and available housing for refugees are advised that ORR regulations at 45 CFR 100.154 and 100.155 allow any entity that is responsible for the statewide refugee resettlement program to request approval from the Director of ORR to use RSS funds to provide any service not specifically contained in regulation. Those state agencies that are experiencing difficulty in finding housing may therefore consider requesting the option of providing transitional housing assistance as a tool in planning and administering programs that enable refugees to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible.

This option applies only if the plan for providing transitional housing assistance: does not result in an absence of funding to provide other crucial employability and support services; directly improves the likelihood of refugee employment and self-sufficiency; does not supplant other available funding that could be used for the same purpose; and is dispensed according to stringent criteria related to need and time frame for assistance. States should be cognizant of implications for their clients’ eligibility for other public assistance programs should transitional or emergency housing assistance count as income.

Request Procedure:

States that wish to provide transitional refugee housing services in accordance with 45 CFR 400.155(h) must submit a request to the Director demonstrating that the program meets the above requirements. In particular, the request should describe:

  1. Gaps in existing housing resources in the affected community(ies) and reasons for refugees’ inability to access them;
  2. Needs assessment used to determine scope of services and target caseload, e.g., job loss or reduction in work hours, no cash assistance, etc.;
  3. Amount of funding the State agency proposes to allocate to housing services;
  4. Procedures for administering housing services and ensuring equitable access to applicants, including:
    a. eligibility criteria that limits receipt of these services to refugees who have been in the country less than twelve months;
    b.maximum and minimum time frames;
    c.maximum and minimum benefit amounts;
    d.method of delivery of assistance (e.g., vendor payment, etc.); and
    e.tracking mechanisms for ensuring accountability and data reporting.
  5. Assurance that services will be provided in a manner that does not supplant other funds available for the same purpose.States are strongly encouraged to submit to the ORR Director by COB Wednesday, July 15, 2009, their request to provide transitional housing services under 45 CFR 400.155(h), in order to maximize the time remaining in FY 2009 for service provision.

States, Wilson/Fish agencies and replacement designees should be mindful that permission to provide transitional housing assistance is likely a one-time option granted in light of extenuating economic circumstances. ORR’s approval for any request is valid for FY 2009, and States approved to use Social Services for housing assistance must report on the progress of housing assistance services in the ORR-6 Performance Report.

Please direct your questions to Pamela Green-Smith, Director, Division of Refugee Assistance (202-401-4531 or Pamela.greensmith@acf.hhs.gov). Thank you.