The US state department has announced a new refugee program that allows ordinary Americans to sponsor and support refugees seeking permanent resettlement in the United States.
Under the Welcome Corps program, American citizens and permanent residents can apply to sponsor refugees through private sponsor groups (PSGs). Each group is required to have at least five individuals, and to raise a minimum of $2,275 per refugee. This initial amount is to support the refugee with housing and other basic needs until they can secure employment. Beyond the initial financial commitment, sponsor groups also help refugees make connections to essential services such as healthcare, childcare, language, transportation, education and employment services.
In the initial phase of the program, approved private sponsor groups will be paired with refugees who’ve already been approved for resettlement in the U.S. In the second phase of the program, expected to start in mid-2023, private sponsor groups will be able to apply for approval to sponsor refugees they have identified. Private sponsor groups are not required to work through existing refugee resettlement offices, which means that groups can support refugees anywhere in the country.
The program is similar to resettlement programs in other countries, including Canada and Australia. While the program has similarities to other recent programs that have provided temporary emergency support for Afghan, Ukrainian, and Venezuelan refugees, the welcome Corp is distinct in that it provides a pathway to permanent resettlement.
The program’s first year goal is to have at least 10,000 Americans step forward as private sponsors, and to have at least 5,000 refugees supported through the program. The program is intended to work as a complement to the traditional resettlement processes that occur through existing resettlement agencies, which are struggling to recover and rebuild from the deep cuts during the Trump administration.
While Madison already has a strong refugee resettlement and support network in place with the services provided through organizations like Jewish Social Services and Open Doors for Refugees, this is a great opportunity for Madison area residents to strengthen our community by welcoming and supporting even more refugees.