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Divisions - Refugee Assistance

Published: October 3, 2012


The Division of Refugee Assistance (DRA) was created to oversee and provide guidance to State-administered programs that provide assistance and services to refugees, asylees, certain Amerasian immigrants, Cuban and Haitian Entrants, and Victims of Human Trafficking (henceforth referred to collectively as “refugees”). DRA monitors program planning, provision of services, and provides technical assistance to ensure compliance with federal regulations governing the delivery of refugee assistance and services, including cash and medical assistance.


DRA provides direction to States to ensure that refugees are provided assistance and services through State-administered programs that enable them to become employed and economically self-sufficient as soon as possible after their arrival in the United States.


Cash and Medical Assistance Program provides reimbursement to States and alternative refugee assistance programs for 100 percent of Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA)and Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) provided to refugees and other eligible persons, as well as associated administrative costs. ORR clients determined ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid are categorically eligible for RCA and RMA for up to eight (8) months from the date of arrival in the U.S., date of final grant of asylum for asylees, and date of certification for trafficking victims. CMA also reimburses States for medical screening costs through local public health clinics so that contagious diseases and medical conditions that may be a barrier to refugees are identified and treated.

Public/Private Partnership Program provides States the option to enter into partnership with local voluntary resettlement agency affiliates for the provision of refugee cash assistance. Services provided to recipients of Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) in the public/private program may be provided by the local resettlement agencies that administer the public/private RCA program or by other refugee service agencies. Program objectives are to enable or foster a more effective and better quality resettlement while maintaining State responsibility for policy and administrative oversight. ORR currently funds PPP programs in the five States of Maryland, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.

Wilson/Fish Alternative Program is an alternative to traditional state administered refugee resettlement programs for providing assistance (cash and medical) and social services to refugees.  The purposes of the WF program are to: (a) Increase refugee prospects for early employment and self-sufficiency; (b) Promote coordination among voluntary resettlement agencies and service providers, and (c)  Ensure that refugee assistance programs exist in every state where refugees are resettled.  The WF program emphasizes early employment and economic self-sufficiency by integrating cash assistance, case management, and employment services and by incorporating innovative strategies for the provision of cash assistance.  ORR currently funds 13 WF programs that operate throughout twelve States: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, plus San Diego County, CA.

Refugee Social Services Program allocates formula funds to States to serve refugees in the U.S. less than sixty months (five years). This program supports employability services and other services that address participants’ barriers to employment such as: social adjustment services, interpretation and translation services, (day care for children), citizenship and naturalization services, etc. Employability services are designed to enable refugees to obtain jobs within one year of becoming enrolled in services. Service priorities are (a) all newly arriving refugees during their first year in the U.S. who apply for services; (b) refugees who are receiving cash assistance; (c) unemployed refugees who are not receiving cash assistance; and (d) employed refugees in need of services to retain employment or to attain economic independence.

Targeted Assistance Program allocates formula funds to States for counties that qualify for additional funds due to an influx of refugee arrivals and a high concentration of refugees in county jurisdictions with high utilization of public assistance. TAP services are the same as Refugee Social Services and are intended to assist refugees obtain employment within one year's participation in the program and to achieve self-sufficiency. TAP service priorities, however, are distinctive in that they prioritize (a) cash assistance recipients, particularly long-term recipients; (b) unemployed refugees not receiving cash assistance; and (c) employed refugees in need of services to retain employment or to attain economic independence.

Cuban Haitian Program provides grants to State and State-alternative programs to fund assistance and services in localities most heavily impacted by an influx of Cuban and Haitian entrants and refugees. Program objectives are to support employment services, hospitals and other health and mental health care programs, adult and vocational education services, refugee crime or victimization programs, and citizenship and naturalization services.

Refugee School Impact Program provides grants to State and State-alternative programs to support impacted school districts with the funds necessary to pay for activities that will lead to the effective integration and education of refugee children. Services target school-age refugees between the ages of five (5) and 18 years of age with program activities that include English as a Second Language instruction, after-school tutorials, programs that encourage high school completion and full participation in school activities, after-school and/or summer clubs and activities, parental involvement programs, bilingual/bicultural counselors, interpreter services and other services.

Services to Older Refugees Program provides grants to States and State-alternative programs, public, and private non-profit organizations, to ensure that refugees aged 60 and above are linked to mainstream aging services in their community. ORR has an interagency agreement with the U.S. Administration on Aging to identify ways in which the Aging and ORR networks can work together more effectively at the State and local levels to improve elderly refugees’ access to services. Program objectives are to (a) establish and/or expand a working relationship with the State Agency on Aging and the local community Area Agency on Aging to ensure all older refugees in the community will be linked to mainstream aging services in their community; (b) provide appropriate services to all older refugees that are not currently being provided in the community; (c) create opportunities to enable older refugees to live independently as long as possible; and (d) develop services for or link older refugees to naturalization services, especially for those who have lost or are at risk of losing Supplemental Security Income and other Federal benefits.

Targeted Assistance Discretionary Program provides grants to States and State-alternative programs to address the employment needs of refugees that cannot be met with the Formula Social Services or Formula Targeted Assistance Grant Programs. Activities under this program are for the purpose of supplementing and/or complementing existing employment services to help refugees achieve economic self-sufficiency. Services funded through the targeted assistance program are required to focus primarily on those refugees who, either because of their protracted use of public assistance or difficulty in securing employment, continue to need services beyond the initial years of resettlement. This funding requirement also promotes the provision of services to refugees who are (‘hard to reach’) and thus finding greater difficulty integrating. Refugees residing in the U.S. longer than five years, refugee women who are not literate in their native language, as well as the elderly are some of the special populations served by this discretionary grant program.

Last Reviewed: May 13, 2019