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Annual ORR Reports to Congress - 2005: Discretionary Grants

Published: May 6, 2014
Discretionary Grants

During FY 2005, ORR continued to fund a wide range of discretionary grants targeting individuals and communities with special needs. Unlike formula social service programs, these funds are awarded competitively and may provide services to refugees who have been in the U.S. for more than 60 months.

  • Individual Development Account Program

Individual development accounts (IDAs) are matched savings accounts available for the purchase of specific assets. Under the IDA program the matching funds, together with the refugee’s own savings, are available for purchasing one (or more) of four savings goals: home purchase; microenterprise capitalization; post-secondary education or training; and purchase of an automobile if necessary for employment or educational purposes. Under past grant programs the purchase of a computer in support of a refugee’s education or microbusiness was also allowed.

Under the ORR-funded program, grantees provide matched savings accounts to refugees whose annual income is less than 200 percent of the poverty level and whose assets, exclusive of a personal residence and one vehicle, are less than $10,000. Grantees provide matches of up to $1 for every $1 deposited by a refugee in a savings account. The total match amount provided may not exceed $2,000 for individuals or $4,000 for households. Upon enrolling in an IDA program, a refugee signs a savings plan agreement. This agreement specifies the savings goal, the match rate, and the amount the refugee will save each month.

The IDA grantees provide basic financial training which is intended to assist refugees in understanding the American financial system. The IDA grantees also provide training focused on the specific savings goals. The specialized training ensures that refugees receive appropriate information on purchasing and managing their asset purchases. For example, grantees provide training on how to purchase a home and how to develop a business plan for a microenterprise.

ORR has funded IDA programs in FY 1999, FY 2000, FY 2002, and FY 2005. All grants except those that started in FY 2005 have ended.

In FY 2005, ORR awarded 8 IDA grants; the grants totaled $1,609,998. ORR also awarded one grant to provide technical assistance to ORR IDA grantees.

Account Activity

From the beginning of the program in FY 1999 through September 30, 2005, 19,065 participants opened accounts. They had the following asset purchase goals: vehicle, 58 percent; home, 19 percent; post-secondary education, 8 percent; computers, 7 percent; and microenterprise, 7 percent. Participants who completed the program saved $27 million, which was matched by $46.1 million.

From September 30, 2005 through March 31, 2006, 86 participants have opened accounts. Forty-seven percent are saving for a microenterprise, 38% are saving for a home, 11% are saving for a vehicle, and 5% are saving for post-secondary education. These participants have a savings goal of $224,000, and to date have saved $37,895.

Asset Purchases

The IDA projects have achieved impressive outcomes from the beginning of the program through September 30, 2005. Since the inception of the program, participants have purchased assets whose value totals $305 million.

The assets purchased included: 9,670 vehicles (to maintain or upgrade employment); 2,020 homes; 1,426 computers; 1,346 post-secondary education courses; and 1,089 microenterprise assets (for business start-up, expansion, or enhancement).

Participants who have enrolled in the IDA program from September 30, 2005 through March 31, have not yet begun making asset purchases.

Participant Characteristics

Participants in the IDA programs came to the U.S. from all over the world. Most came from Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union (38 percent), while Africans (26 percent) were the next largest group, followed by participants from Asia (20 percent), the Middle East (9 percent), and Latin America (4 percent).

IDA participant households varied in important ways. Most of the participants (98 percent) lived in urban settings and were male (60 percent). At the time of program entry, 58 percent of the participants were married, 31 percent were single, and ten percent were widowed, separated or divorced.

IDA participant resources also varied. Most were employed, full-time or more (73 percent), part-time (18 percent), or working and in school (seven percent). About 22 percent had monthly incomes of less than $1,000, 54 percent had between $1,000 and $1,999, 18 percent had between $2,000 and $2,999, and 6 percent had $3,000 or more (for one percent, income was not reported). Of those whose educational level was reported, 35 percent had more than a 12 th grade education, 29 percent had 12 th grade or equivalent (diploma or GED), and 27 percent had less than 12 years of education.

ORR awarded the following grants in FY 2005:

  • Lao Family Community Development, Inc., Oakland, California, $200,000
  • World Relief DuPage, Wheaton, IL, $199,998
  • ISED Ventures, Des Moines, IA, $235,000
  • Jewish Family & Vocational Services, Inc., Louisville, KY, $230,000
  • International Institute of Metropolitan St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, $180,000
  • New York Association for New Americans, New York, NY, $220,000
  • Women's Opportunities Resource Center, Philadelphia, PA, $235,000
  • Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Nashville, Tennessee, $110,000

Employment Subsidy Program

The Employment Subsidy Program assists refugees who have experienced long-term difficulties with assimilation. The program increases rates of refugee employment and decreases rates of refugee welfare utilization by providing employment services to unemployed refugees and wage subsidies to employers who hire refugees. The program assists refugees who have experienced long-term difficulties, or who are likely to experience long-term difficulties, in assimilating into American communities with positive workforce experiences. These grants provide opportunities for subsidized and unsubsidized job placements that will lead to permanent employment and economic self-sufficiency.

Refugees eligible to participate in projects funded under this announcement must be at least 18 years of age and must not be enrolled in school on a full-time basis. Refugee participants must be unemployed, without earned income, employed part-time, or members of families receiving public assistance. Refugees are eligible to participate in this project if they have resided in the U.S. for a minimum of one year and have been residents of their communities for a minimum of three months. Refugees must demonstrate that they have exhausted other types and sources of employment services and that they are continuing to experience long-term unemployment to participate in a project.

Through written contractual agreements, grantees may use funds to reimburse employers for up to 100 percent of the employment wage (including fringe benefits), for a maximum of nine months. In exchange for the salary subsidy, the employer agrees to provide the refugee employee additional supervisory assistance in learning the job and to retain the refugee employee in this position after the wage subsidy has ended. If insufficient funds are available to continue the position, the employer agrees to assist the refugee employee in securing other employment.

In FY 2005, continuation grant awards were made to nine agencies. Grants were awarded to the following agencies:

  • Iowa Department of Human Services, Des Moines, IA, $500,000
  • Federation Employment and Guidance Service, Inc., New York, NY, $290,000
  • Lao Veterans of America in Minnesota, Inc., St. Paul, MN, $200,000
  • Lao Khmu Association, Stockton, CA, $300,000
  • La Maestra Family Clinic, Inc., San Diego, CA, $500,000
  • Jewish Vocational Service and Community Workshop, Southfield, MI, $211,600
  • Lutheran Community Services of Southern New England, Inc., W. Springfield, MA, $300,000
  • Jewish Vocational Service, Boston, MA, $300,000
  • Merced Lao Family Community, Inc. , Merced, CA, $350,000

At the end of September 2005, data submitted by the grantees shows that the grantee had placed 892 hard-to-place refugee participants in subsidized and unsubsidized jobs:

  • 452 participants were placed directly in unsubsidized placements at an average hourly wage of $9.67 working 36.7 hours per week.
  • 440 participants were placed in subsidized placements at an average hourly wage of $8.58 working 38.2 hours per week.

Targeted Assistance Discretionary Grants

ORR awarded 21 grants totaling $4,908,100 to States to implement special employment services not implemented with formula social services or with TAG formula grants.

  • Florida ($375,000) for interpretation/translation, community outreach, employment counseling, and case management.
  • Maryland ($100,000) for orientation and acculturation and for English and civics courses for women between the age of 18 and 80.
  • Louisiana ($101,000) for computer-assisted language learning and literacy.
  • Michigan ($200,000) for community orientation, social and employment services, and vocational ESL.
  • Minnesota ($250,000) for community services for the deaf, academic English Language Training (ELT) for medical career advancement, nursing assistant training, ELT exchange programs for youth, and community orientation for Somalis.
  • Missouri ($250,000) for pre-literate refugee women in St. Louis and Kansas City for employment and supportive services.
  • Illinois ($250,000) for parenting and domestic violence prevention, ESL classes for adults and for children after school, and electronic assembly training classes.
  • California ($949,786) or employment assistance for youth and parents, family violence prevention, family day care and literacy training, licensed vocational nurse training, and employment and placement services.
  • North Carolina ($125,000) for ESL and employment services, health care, and youth mentoring.
  • Texas ($384,356) for family violence prevention, Sudanese MAA support groups on women issues, and ESL classes.
  • Ohio ($91,000) to assist eligible refugees, particularly women, find work within a year after arrival.
  • Wisconsin ($503,958) for employment training, microenterprise development, case management, parenting assistance, tutoring and ESL after school for at-risk youth, mental health assessment, case management, counseling/referral, family violence prevention, and intervention services.
  • Connecticut ($175,000) to assist low-and pre-literate homebound women to gain skills for employment, through a collaborative effort of a wide spectrum of community-based organizations.
  • Maine ($250,000) proposes to offer employment, case management, retention and job counseling to its target population.
  • Washington ($250,000) proposes a partnership to address special employment needs of refugees, through intensive case management, employment and naturalization services.
  • Pennsylvania ($113,000) will address special employment needs of refugee women and secondary migrants in two distinct geographical areas – Central and Western Pennsylvania.
  • South Dakota ($100,000) A Wilson/Fish agency, Lutheran Social Services is the only provider in the State. They intend to serve pre-literate women and the elderly (for citizenship services), and do job upgrades for 6 months for higher-skilled refugees who are working but barely self-sufficient.
  • Idaho ($100,000) will address the top and bottom of the job search scale—homebound women for first employment and job upgrade support for refugees who are working.
  • Arizona ($150,000) program proposes for Tucson to address the gaps in services to eligible refugees. The purpose is for refugees to gain employment through supportive services, i.e. ESL skills training.
  • New Jersey ($125,000) will address the current employment shift from manufacturing industries in the State to better prepare clients for long-term employment and self-sufficiency.
  • Nevada ($65,000) will provide employment training, upgrading and follow-up services and recertification assistance to eligible and highly skilled clients in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Funds will be specifically targeted to Cuban entrant border clients who arrive directly in Las Vegas without any prior resettlement services and referrals from the newly opened local office of Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC).

Technical Assistance

ORR supports the work of its grantees in various program areas through several technical assistance cooperative agreements with organizations qualified to advance the field, improve program achievement and develop organizational capacity to improve performance. ORR’s intent through this technical assistance support is to equip grantees with the best technical help for continuous improvement in programs, in their capacity to serve refugees, and in their impact on refugee lives and economic independence.

In FY 2005, the following technical assistance grants were awarded:

  • Spring Institute for International Studies ($269,992) for English Language Training;
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service ($319,915) for employment services;
  • Mercy Housing ($180,000) for housing for refugees;
  • Institute for Social and Economic Development ( $525,000) for self-sufficiency programs, including the Individual Development Account program, the Microenterprise Development program, and the Employment Subsidy program;
  • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ($724,895) for Child Welfare Services and for victims of trafficking;
  • Institute for Social and Economic Development ( $498,000) for ethnic community self-help organizations, the Wilson/Fish program, and the Refugee Rural Initiative;
  • National Crime Prevention Council ($355,990);
  • International Rescue Committee ($432,000) for ethnic community self-help organizations; and
  • Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., ($270,000) for a hotline for asylees seeking assistance.

Microenterprise Development Program

In FY 2005, ORR awarded 29 microenterprise grants. The total funds awarded to develop and administer microenterprise programs were $5,954,350. ORR also awarded one grant to provide technical assistance to ORR microenterprise grantees.

The microenterprise development projects are intended for recently arrived refugees on public assistance, refugees who possess few personal assets, and refugees who lack a credit history that meets commercial lending standards. The projects are also intended for refugees who have been in the U.S. for several years and wish to supplement salaried income. Microenterprise projects typically include components of training and technical assistance in business skills and business management, credit assistance, and administration of revolving loan funds and loan loss reserve funds.

Since the program’s inception in September 1991 through September 2005, ORR has awarded grants to 45 agencies. The programs currently operate in 20 different States across the country, from California to Maine and from Florida to Washington State. The agencies are located in both rural and urban settings, and in areas with both high and low concentrations of refugees.

Client Businesses

Since September 1991, 5,275 businesses have been assisted under this program. Of these, 3,594 were new business starts, 569 were expansions of existing businesses, and 1,112 represented strengthening or stabilization of existing businesses. The types of businesses helped are as diverse as the people who operated them. They include small farming, trucking, retail, food vendors, tutors, and restaurants.

Loan Funds

Since 1991, businesses served by the ORR microenterprise programs obtained 2,354 loans representing $19,426,461 in business financing. This represents an average loan amount of $8,253. Of this amount, ORR has provided $4,955,081 in loan capital, which leveraged the additional $7,138,707 from other sources. The default rate has averaged less than 2.0 percent. Lending has increased over the life of the program.

Client Characteristics

Nearly 19,467 refugees have participated in training or technical assistance. At the time of entry into training, 31 percent had been in the U.S. less than 2 years; 42.4 percent had been in the U.S. 2-5 years; and 26.6 percent had been in the U.S. over five years. About 62.4 percent were competent in English, while 37.6 percent had little or no English language skills.

  • Other characteristics of refugee entrepreneurs include the following: Forty-one percent of the participants were women and 59 percent were men. Over 75 percent of participants were between 31 and 50 years of age. Married clients equaled 65 percent and singles equaled 35 percent.

Cost Analysis

There are three measures of cost analysis that are used to determine the effectiveness of the refugee microenterprise program—cost per business assisted, cost per job created, and cost per employment outcome. These measures are calculated by dividing the amount of operational funding by the number of businesses assisted, jobs created, or employment outcomes. Excluding loan funds, the total amount of ORR operational funding expended for these microenterprise projects was $26,846,726 over the fourteen-year period. For 5,275 businesses assisted, this represents an average cost-per-business start or expansion of $5,089.

The total number of jobs created by new and expanding/strengthening businesses (including the business owner) was 5,218 which translates to $5,145 per job created. Finally, of the businesses assisted, 4,750 are still in operation—a 90 percent survival rate.2

  • ORR awarded the following grants in FY 2005:
  • International Rescue Committee, Phoenix, Arizona $187,452
  • Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission, Fresno, California, $241,487
  • Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment, Los Angeles, California, $200,000
  • Opening Doors, Inc., Sacramento, California, $250,000
  • International Rescue Committee, San Diego, California, $246,593
  • Church World Service, Miami, Florida, $261,447
  • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Inc., St. Petersburg, Florida, $100,000
  • Partnership for Community Action, Decatur, Georgia, $100,435
  • Refugee Women’s Network, Decatur, Georgia, $175,000
  • Mountain States Group, Inc., Boise, Idaho, $198,334
  • Jewish Vocational Service and Employment Center, Chicago, Illinois, $228,207
  • Institute for Social and Economic Development, Coralville, Iowa, $189,000
  • Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Wiscasset, Maine, $155,136
  • International Institute of Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, $263,689
  • Neighborhood Development Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, $150,000
  • International Institute of Metropolitan St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, $238,272
  • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Camden, Pennsauken, New Jersey, $198,989
  • Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team, Albuquerque, New Mexico, $200,000
  • Business Outreach Center Network, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, $197,440
  • New York Association for New Americans, Inc., New York, New York, $325,000
  • Jewish Family Services, Columbus, Ohio, $300,000
  • World Relief, Nashville, Tennessee, $200,000
  • Champlain Valley O.E.O., Inc., Burlington, Vermont, $143,593
  • Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc., Arlington, Virginia, $257,896
  • Diocese of Olympia, Inc., Seattle, Washington, $221,885
  • Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs, Spokane, Washington, $140,725
  • Wisconsin Community Action Program Association, Madison, Wisconsin, $400,000
  • Hmong/American Friendship Association, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, $78,770
  • ADVOCAP, Inc., Oshkosh, Wisconsin, $105,000

ORR Standing Announcement

In FY 2004, ORR, seeking to assure that refugees are welcomed in their U.S. communities of resettlement with sufficient services to begin their new lives, revised and reissued its standing announcement with the following priority areas: Priority Area 1 (Preferred Communities), Priority Area 2 (Unanticipated Arrivals), and Priority Area 3 (Ethnic Community Self-Help). In FY 2005 ORR continued funding for these programs.


[2] Job creation data was not collected for 1991 and 1992 grantees. Data for these two periods were created by extrapolating from the data for the 1994-2004 grantees.

Last Reviewed: June 24, 2019