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The History of the Matching Grant Program

Published: October 27, 2015

In FY 1979, in response to an administration request, Congress initiated a matching grant (MG) program to provide assistance and services to Soviet and other non-SEA and non-Cuban refugees in the United States. [At that time, there were separate programs for Cuban and Indochinese Refugees]  Under this program, Federal funds of up to $1,000 per refugee were provided on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis to those national Voluntary Agencies, or "Volags", which were responsible for these groups of refugees. Services included cash and medical, an array of services and administration. $20 million was made available for domestic resettlement to non-Cuban, non-Indochinese refugees for whom programs already existed. Prior to this, all non-Cuban, non-Indochinese refugees were resettled through Volags and philanthropic donations. From 1972, this number totaled over 25,000. Large numbers were arriving due to the Helsinki Accord straining local agencies.  Federal relief was sought and obtained to serve these refugees and give more equitable assistance to the different ethnicities, the MG program was born. The dollar for dollar amount was seen as providing "equal participation by the American public and private sectors." Flexibility was desired; i.e., a different program built on the success of the philanthropic outcomes reported by volags. [30% of SEA received welfare, compared to 2.5% for Soviet Jews]  Welfare laws, visa requirements prohibited Soviets from accessing the same benefits available for SEA and Cubans. [Congressional Record 9/22/79]

Soviets prior to this could only get R&P services.

Legislative authority was originally provided with the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (P.L. 87-510) and the Foreign Assistance and Related Programs Appropriation Act, 1979 (P.L. 95-481). In passing the Refugee Act of 1980 [signed March 17, 1980], Congress made it clear that, where effective and efficient, this special matching grant program should be continued. 

In FY 1980, grants totaling $23.6 million were awarded for the Match Grant program to serve 23,600 of the 210,000 refugees to arrive.  This number is the largest of any one year and does not include the 125,000 Cuban and Haitian entrants that arrived that year.  Matching Grant agencies in that year were: American Council of Nationalities Service [$74,415], American Fund for Czechoslovak Refugees, Council of Jewish Federation in association with HIAS [$21.5m], IRC, Rav Tov, Tolstoy Foundation and USCC.  HIAS in that year took in 29,533 refugees, 21,000 from the Soviet Union, the rest from Cuban and Indochina.  HIAS placed everyone from the Soviet Union in the MG program. Jimmy Carter loses the election to Ronald Reagan.   ORR Director, Roger Winter et al.

For FY 1981, President Carter had set a refugee admissions ceiling of 217,000.  However, only 158,000 were actually admitted due to (1) the drop in the number allowed to leave the Soviet Union; and (2) fewer refugees being processed from Southeast Asia.  Of these, 132,000 were Southeast Asians. For the Match Grant program, awards totaled only $9,919,112.  $8m was awarded to the Council of Jewish Federation [HIAS]; $100,000 to ACNS; $1m to Rav Tov; and $300,000 to USCC. By this time, the program was open to all refugees.  Total arrivals = 158,000.

In FY 1982, awards under the Match Grant program dropped to $7,608,000.  Due to the drop in Soviet arrivals, CJF received only $4,301,000.  ACNS received $1,231,000, a twelve-fold increase; while USCC was awarded $1,278,000, a four-fold increase.  Total Arrivals = 97,000.

In 1982, the IG reviewed the Match Grant program and found it was okay, but needed to be more specific and consistent in the delivery of services. 

FY 1983, the Match Grant program dropped to $3,827,239.  Reflecting tensions with the Soviet Union [1,400 arrivals], CJF received only $741,000; USCC received $1,575,825 in new funds; while ACNS received $877,414. Total arrivals = 61,000.

120-day program set.

In FY 1984, $4 million was awarded under the Reagan Administration.  Admissions were 70,600.  New program guidelines were issued in the second quarter to clarify and define program requirements. These included food and housing to be provided for up to three months past the initial R&P grants and other services. Five agencies were awarded funds, including the entrance into the program of  two agencies, the Church World Service and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. Rav Tov leaves the Match Grant program.

[ACNS grant was for $23,100]

FY 1985 with a ceiling of 70,000; 68,000 refugees actually arrived.  ACNS and Tolstoy Foundation left the program altogether.  $4 million awarded with USCC the largest grantee at $1,893,952 followed by CJF at $1.2 million.

Program expanded to all refugees.

Refugee arrivals dropped to 62,000 in FY 1986.  The Federal funds available per refugee were reduced from $1,000 to $957 due to the implementation of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings legislation.  Continuation grants were awarded totaling $3.8 million.  Church World Service leaves the MG program.

Refugee Assistance Extension Act of 1986 section 7 reads: Maintaining Funding Level of Matching Grant Program   (a) Subject to the availability of appropriations, the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement shall not reduce the maximum average Federal contribution level per refugee in the matching grant program and shall not increase the percentage grantee matching requirement under that program below the level, or above the percentage, in effect under the program for grants in fiscal year 1985.  (b) The "matching grant program" referred to in subsection (a) is the voluntary agency program which is known as the matching grant program and is funded under section 412(c) of the INA.

In FY 1987, arrivals totaled 64,600.  Arrivals from the Soviet Union increased, which led directly to an increase in the Match Grant program to $5.8 million.  CJF received more than $3.2 million, while USCC was just under $2 million.  About 3,500 Soviet refugees arrived compared to 800 the previous year, and more than 20,000 in each of 1979 and 1980.  The arrivals from the Soviet Union were among the oldest of the arriving nationality groups with 12 percent 65 or older.

FY 1988 brought 76,400 refugees to America.  $7.7 million was awarded in the Match Grant program, with almost 70 percent of the refugees resettled in the MG program coming from the Soviet Jewish population. 

Refugee admissions rose to 107,000 in FY 1989.  President Bush increased the Reagan administration ceiling of 94,000 due to an increase in arrivals from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.  Congress appropriated $15.8 million for this program, including $4.3 million to reimburse organizations for significant expenses incurred in the resettlement of Soviet Jews at the end of FY 1988.  CJF resettled over 30,000 refugees and was awarded $12,436,229 in Match Grant funds. USCC received $2.5 million.  ACNS rejoined the Match Grant program and was awarded $86,130.

In FY 1990, arrivals increased another 14 percent to 122,000 of which 47 percent were from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.  Congress appropriated nearly $55 million, more than three and one-half times the amount appropriated the year before.  A portion of the funds was awarded to offset previous year expenses for refugees from the Soviet Union.  CJF was awarded nearly $50 million.  USCC received nearly $5 million; ACNS was awarded $71,775.

Refugee admissions dropped to 114,000 in FY 1991 with 40 percent from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.  Match Grant awards totaled $39 million.  CJF received $35 million; USCC received $3 million.  ACNS increased to $325,380.

Admissions increased to 131,600 in FY 1992. Funding for the Match Grant program remained at $39 million.  In the Match Grant program, Soviet Jews while representing only a third of all refugee arrivals, accounted for over 90 percent of matching grant participants. From 1980 through 1992, $218,741,176 was awarded.  ACNS increased to $457,802.  Sometime prior to this year, medical services were no longer included in MG services.

119,100 refugees and Amerasian immigrants were brought into the country in FY 1993, with approximately 43 percent from the Soviet Union.  Match Grant program funds totaled $30 million.  CJF received $25 million plus carryover authority on unexpended funds during the prior year to resettle 33,207.  CJF placed nearly all-eligible refugees into the program, while other agencies used selective criteria that would lead to meeting the goals of self-sufficiency within the first 120 days. ACNS was awarded $600,000 and reported a 90 percent success rate.
Over 112,000 refugees and Amerasian immigrants were brought into the country in FY 1994,

39 percent from the former Soviet Union.  Match Grant funds totaling $32.6 million were awarded to six agencies with operations in over 100 sites. World Relief joined the Match Grant program.  Grant for $26.6 million to CJF transferred to HIAS.  ACNS changes to IRSA and is awarded $725,000. USCC is awarded $3,665,000; LIRS is awarded $1,130,634.

99,500 refugees were admitted in FY 1995, more than 27 percent from the former Soviet Union.  $27.3 million awarded in the Match Grant program.  Nine Volags participated in the program with CWS, EMM, and ECDC joining the program.  EMM had been a sub-grantee of HIAS.  With these new agencies and their affiliates, the Match Grant program was now operating in 182 locations.  IRSA reported 94 percent of clients were self-sufficient by the 120-day mark.  Other agencies reported less spectacular results. HIAS, which places all of its clients in the program, achieved self-sufficiencies for 24 percent of its caseload by the 120-day mark.

Arrivals dropped to 75,728 in FY 1996, of which 24,268 participated in the MG program. The Match Grant program decreased somewhat to $25.1 million.  Midway through the year, ORR replaced the dollar for dollar match with a $1.40 in federal funds for every dollar in match raised by the volags.  This was the first increase in federal funding level to the program.  Three new sites were added.

In FY 1997, 75,610 refugees entered the United States. In addition, more than 5,000 Cuban/Haitian entrants were admitted.  $38.1 million was awarded in the MG program; IRSA award approaches $2 million.  HIAS awarded $23 million.

FY 1998, nine volags participated in MG with programs in 202 sites.  17,877 clients were served.  This was the first year that Soviet Jews were not the majority of clients served in the program and signaled the increasing ethnic diversity of refugees coming to the US.  90,628 arrivals.

FY 1999 again was a year of significant changes.  After an initial award of $28.8 million, ORR in mid-year replaced the $1.40 to $1 match with a $2 to $1 match supplemental award.

For the nine agencies, this supplemental announcement totaled $10 million.  Much of the additional funds awarded were intended to go directly to the refugees as ORR directed that the weekly cash allowance be increased from $20 to $50 for each adult. But before these awards could be issued, the crisis in Kosova suddenly brought 14,000 more refugees to the country. ORR awarded an addendum to the program to enable additional enrollees into the Match Grant program.  For FY 1999, a total of $49 million was awarded under the program including a $6 million carry forward for HIAS. HIAS, facing a dramatic decline in arrivals, was surpassed by USCC as the largest grantee for the MG program.

For FY 2000, new program guidelines were issued. The principal changes to the program were: (1) to permit enrollment into the program from date of arrival through the 31st day; (2) allow Cuban/Haitian parolees into the program despite the lack of an R&P grant.  These changes, et al, had the greatest affect on the Miami-Dade County, Florida.  Cuban lottery winners/parolees that arrived without the benefit of a reception and placement grant could now qualify for the MG program.   Enrollments for Miami climbed to over 3,000, a ten-fold increase.  Awards overall totaled $53.6 million for a projected caseload of 28,312 clients, or 31% of the projected total arrivals of 90,000.  In sites where the MG program operates, projected arrivals totaled 61,000.  Thus in sites where MG operates, more than 40 percent of arrivals elect to participate in the MG program. 

CY 2001 began a new round of three-year grants.  Guidelines were rewritten and more changes were made to the program.  To assist in the monitoring of the program, service providers were required to maintain a summary sheet of cash and in-kind contributions provided to the client.  To enroll in the Matching Grant program, a client enrollment form that included the Refugee Rights and Responsibilities written to the extent possible in English and the refugee's own language.  Housing or rent payments were to be maintained at a minimum for the month following job placement unless the placement occurs in the last 30 days of eligibility.  Cash allowance of $200/month/adult was to be maintained throughout the first 120 days of eligibility to the extent that it did not affect Medicaid eligibility.  The program was opened up to asylees with effective date of eligibility based on the date of the grant of asylum.  In July 2001, an exception was made for Burmese asylees coming from Guam who, due to the logistical difficulty in mail and transportation, would otherwise not be eligible to enroll in the program. The exception was made to enable them to enroll within 31 days from date of arrival, similar to a refugee. With this exception, over 400 Burmese asylees went directly into the Matching Grant program.

The September 11th terrorist attack brought a halt to refugee arrivals and a virtual cessation of enrollments into the MG program.  Facing a potential decay in the service infrastructure due to the lack of enrollments paid on a per capita basis, ORR responded by providing funding to maintain staff salaries through the end of the calendar year irrespective of fourth quarter enrollments.  ORR permitted Volags to retain $1,000 for each unfilled previously approved slot.  These "unearned" funds of the per capita grants, were to be used to retain the staff infrastructure.  Volags were required to match the $1,000 with $500 in cash and in-kind contributions. ORR further directed Volag affiliate staff to review the status of MG clients served and provide additional service and resources to assure their self-sufficiency as needed.  This became known as the "50% solution".  For CY 2001, ORR awarded the nine Volags a total of $59,214,000, enough for 29,607 "slots" in 248 affiliate sites.  Volags served 26,157 leaving 3,450 slots unfilled.  Given that the arrival numbers dropped precipitously in the last quarter, this was an amazing accomplishment.  Miami, Florida was the largest Matching Grant site where more than 4,000 clients were served.  With Cuban enrollments, Miami was the only site to exceed its projected number of enrollments.  Other large sites of 1,000 or more include New York City, Atlanta and Houston.

For CY 2002, ORR provided funding for 29,356 slots, or a total of $58,710,000.  Total funding included the carry forward of $3,450,000 in unexpended funds.  As the year progressed, the development and imposition of new security measures by the Immigration and Naturalization Services dramatically restricted refugee arrivals.  Halfway through the federal fiscal year, it was clear that refugee arrivals were way below authorized levels.  Aggressive outreach to asylees and the Cuban/Haitian entrant population mitigated low refugee arrivals and enrollments through the first trimester reporting period met 22% of the annual goal.  In July 2002, it was clear the hiatus in refugee arrivals would continue. ORR elected to continue the "50% solution" through CY 2002 to enable Volags to effectively plan staff and budgets for the remainder of the year.  At this time, ORR also provided an exception to the enrollment date in MG for asylees who were otherwise unable to enroll in the program due to late notification by INS of the date of grant of asylum. Affiliates could seek the exception on behalf of the asylee by providing supporting documentation to ORR.

Last Reviewed: February 12, 2019
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