By Rome Sentinel / www.romesentinel.com | on 13 April 2017
Refugee center eyes state funds, fundraiser to overcome potential cuts, federal action. The Utica-based center’s concerns began earlier this year following federal efforts to temporarily suspend refugee resettlement into the U.S. in order to assess and improve national vetting procedures, the two legislators noted in a joint announcement today. “Federal courts have blocked two attempts so far to suspend refugee resettlement, but this uncertainty has created financial challenges for agencies like the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica.”
The state budget for 2017-18 includes $2 million to help support upstate New York agencies that face potential cuts in funding, particularly the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, if any federal restrictions on refugee resettlement takes effect.
The funding was announced by state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo of Rome and Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi Jr. of Utica.
The Utica-based center’s concerns began earlier this year following federal efforts to temporarily suspend refugee resettlement into the U.S. in order to assess and improve national vetting procedures, the two legislators noted in a joint announcement today. “Federal courts have blocked two attempts so far to suspend refugee resettlement, but this uncertainty has created financial challenges for agencies like the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica.”
In 2016, 411 refugees resettled in Oneida County, which was almost twice the number that settled in New York City. The counties of Erie, Onondaga, Monroe, Albany and Broome also were significant resettlement areas of the state.
The money will go to agencies within the state with the primary mission of resettling refugees. It will be distributed based on a formula developed by the state based on the number of refugees resettled by the agencies over the last five years. It is not contingent on federal budget cuts, noted Brindisi, D-119. “Many resettlement agencies have already seen their numbers drop due to uncertainty surrounding the federal travel ban.”
“Utica and the Mohawk Valley have long been a beacon of hope for those refugees fleeing violence in their homelands, and for generations we have always welcomed these families with open arms. Refugees have brought cultural diversity and awareness to our region, and they have reinvigorated our neighborhoods and local economy in ways that continue to make Utica stronger,” said Sen. Griffo, R-47. “Our refugees would not be able to achieve newfound stability in our communities without the support of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center, and this funding will help ensure that their staff has the resources it needs to guide these individuals into lives of independence.”
Brindisi said: “Without refugees coming to our region, Utica would be a city facing population loss instead of the population gain we are seeing. This funding will assist refugees with transition services, putting them on the path to pursuing the American dream. Refugees have been a very significant part of the success story of Utica and the Mohawk Valley. Their efforts to find employment, purchase and renovate homes, and pay taxes has been a significant reason for the economic revitalization of Utica. They should be able to continue making a better life in our region, because their success is something we can all be proud of.”
Center Executive Director Shelly Callahan, said: “This funding will allow MVRCR to provide refugees with the services they need to facilitate integration and achieve economic self-sufficiency, benefiting both refugees and their new communities. Both Assemblyman Brindisi and Senator Griffo were instrumental in introducing the legislation in support of statewide refugee programs and getting it passed in the final budget. In light of current budget challenges, and uncertainty over short-term disruptions and possible travel bans, this legislation supports refugees and the communities that welcome them throughout New York at a most critical time.”
The news comes as the center is conducting a campaign to raise funds in support of core agency services during the “pause in refugee resettlement.”
There are several ways to donate to the fundraising campaign:
- Visit www.mvrcr.org and click on the “Donate Today” link.
- To donate via telephone, call directly at (315) 738-1083 extension 127.
- To donate via check, make checks payable to MVRCR and mail to 309 Genesee St., Utica, NY 13501.
The center continues to provide services to support those newest to the community and is facing self-described difficult financial times related to the impact of current policies on refugee resettlement. “We need community assistance to ensure that the programs that support immigration — programs that have made our nation and community great —continue. The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties has generously partnered with MVRCR on the fundraising campaign and will match $1 for every $1 raised, up to $20,000.”
Utica has been recognized both nationally and internationally for its cultural diversity and respect for the many ethnicities that call the city home. The center is the main service provider for refugees in Central New York and has assisted over 16,000 refugees from 36 countries in starting new lives in this region. It has evolved in 35-plus years, expanding to provide services not just to refugees, but also to immigrant communities to support integration into the economic and civic fabric of the community.