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Acting Human Services Secretary, Legislative Leaders Recognize Refugee Service Providers Supporting New Pennsylvanians, Urge Passage of Ukraine New Neighbors Fund

05/12/2022

Pittsburgh, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead today joined Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, Senator Lindsey Williams, leadership from the Jewish Family and Community Services Pittsburgh and other refugee resettlement service providers in the Pittsburgh region to recognize the critical humanitarian work organizations do in support of refugees and resettlement in Pennsylvania. The event also stressed the need for the General Assembly to pass legislation introduced in both the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives that would support providers preparing to assist individuals and families displaced from Ukraine.  

“Over the past year especially, our refugee service providers have worked tirelessly to prepare for, and welcome people displaced from Afghanistan and Haiti, among other nations. Their work embodies the ideals of peace, tolerance, and safety for all people on which Pennsylvania was founded,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “Organizations like Jewish Family and Community Services and the people who dedicate their lives to helping others escaping unthinkable situations are among the first introductions refugees have when they arrive in Pennsylvania. Their work provides the safety and community that these individuals and families deserve, and as we prepare to welcome people forced to flee their homes in Ukraine, we must support each of them as they perform this life-saving service.” 
 
“The refugee service contractors here today have been doing the hard work of helping these families who are fleeing unimaginable danger find their footing here in Pittsburgh. The $2 million in state funding made available through my legislation would give these service contractors the flexibility and the funding that they need to meet the immediate needs of Ukrainian refugees as they arrive here in Pennsylvania, and to continue to assist them as they begin to heal and rebuild from the trauma they’ve experienced,” said Senator Williams. 

DHS’ Office of Income Maintenance oversees the Pennsylvania Refugee Resettlement Program, which works closely with the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. While DHS at the state level does not have authority over placement decisions, DHS’ refugee resettlement team works closely with the federal government and local resettlement agencies to facilitate supportive services for individuals and families placed in Pennsylvania. These services include employment and education supports, access to physical and behavioral health services, and case management. DHS’ Refugee Resettlement Program works closely with partner agencies around Pennsylvania to make the commonwealth a welcoming, safe place for anyone forced to seek refuge in the United States. Since 2015, DHS’ Refugee Resettlement Program has worked with approximately 9,000 individuals placed in Pennsylvania to find a safe, welcoming refuge. 

The proposed bipartisan legislation, which is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Lindsey Williams, would allocate $2 million in state funds that would be awarded to DHS’s Refugee Resettlement Program contracted providers. The funding will be used to supplement existing federal investments and create faster and more flexible ways to deliver expanded services that will help refugee populations find and retain employment, achieve self-sufficiency, and fully integrate into their communities. Services include: 

  • Short and long-term housing; 

  • English-as-Second-Language education and support; 

  • Occupational skills and training to prepare individuals for in-demand jobs in Pennsylvania; and, 

  • (Re)certification courses for arrivals with degrees that are not transferrable to the United States. 

While Pennsylvania has not yet received word of how many Ukrainian refugees will be placed in Pennsylvania and when, Pennsylvania is currently home to more than 122,000 Ukrainians, the second most of any state in the nation.  

For more information on refugee resettlement services supported by DHS in Pennsylvania, visit www.dhs.pa.gov/refugeesinpa

MEDIA CONTACT: Brandon Cwalina - ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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