Sacramento, CA–Furthering California’s long-standing role as a state of inclusion and refuge, Governor Gavin Newsom, along with Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), took action this week to assist Afghan arrivals settling in California.
Newsom, with support from legislative leaders, is requesting $16.7 million in general funds, which will be used to provide cash assistance and other services for newly arriving Afghans in the state.
“I am proud that California has been and always will be a place of refuge for those seeking safety or a better life – especially for those who served our country, like many of the Afghan refugees coming to America, and to California,” said Governor Newsom.
California is taking comprehensive action to welcome the Afghan refugees, including through a statewide coordination effort, as well as access to health care, public benefits, and additional resources. The proposed general fund expenditure is expected to be considered during the legislative session next week.
“These refugees gave our service members help in Afghanistan and it is only fitting we give them hope when they come to California,” said Senate President pro Tempore Atkins. “When I was growing up, the golden rule was that no matter how little you had, you help those in need. We are blessed to be in a position in California where we have enough funding to help ease these refugees’ transition into our society, and I am pleased the state is joining with so many other organizations and individuals who are doing the right thing.”
Some Afghan arrivals will not be Special Immigration Visa holders, but rather will be paroled into the U.S. for humanitarian reasons. Due to their immigration status, humanitarian parolees are currently ineligible for some refugee benefits and services as well as many federal public assistance programs. However, humanitarian parolees are potentially eligible for state-funded CalWORKs, Medi-Cal, and California’s Food Assistance Program, if they meet program eligibility requirements. Notably, as humanitarian parolees, only Afghan arrivals with children could be eligible for CalWORKs, and there is an expected gap in assistance available for Afghans under this status who are without children. The proposed temporary expansion of the state’s Trafficking and Crime Victim Assistance Program (TCVAP) will ensure humanitarian parolees without children, who are ineligible for CalWORKs, are able to access important public benefits, if they are otherwise eligible.
State officials will continue to lead in this area with further coordination, community engagement, and state-funded public benefits to further available resources, including by leveraging the below efforts:
To facilitate an organized and coordinated effort, the state has established an interagency working group that will be co-led by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the California Health and Human Services Agency. They will work closely with counties, resettlement agencies, community groups, and philanthropic organizations, with the goal of supporting the successful integration of newly arriving Afghans, including the provision of public and privately funded services and support.
Depending on their immigration status, arriving Afghan individuals and families are eligible for certain public assistance programs, including those funded by the state.
Newsom proposes $16.7 million to address gaps in federal and state-funded assistance for certain Afghan arrivals through the temporary expansion of TCVAP.
Recent Afghan arrivals may be eligible for state and federal housing and homelessness resources. Local coordination will help leverage these resources. Additional information regarding available resources will be added in the coming weeks.
$20 million in awards for the California Newcomer Education and Well-Being (CalNEW) program and $1 million in federal funding awards for the Refugee School Impact (RSI) program. The 2020-21 State Budget provided $20 million to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) for the CalNEW program. In addition, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement appropriated $1 million to implement the RSI program during Federal FY 2022. The funding is allocated to school districts in under-resourced service areas with large numbers of socioeconomically disadvantaged newcomers, undocumented immigrants, language isolated households, unaccompanied minors placements, and refugee arrivals, including school districts in regions with an increase in Afghan arrivals.
The 2021-22 State Budget also included $105.2 million one-time General Funds for rapid response to provide humanitarian support to immigrants for emergent needs, which may be available to supplement resettlement efforts and support immediate short-term needs where federal funding is unavailable.
Newsom also announced an expansion of the California Dignity for Families Fund, a public-private partnership with Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, which was established to meet the needs of migrants, migrant families, and unaccompanied youth and minors entering California, including individuals and families arriving from Afghanistan. The fund has already raised $8.3 million toward its $20 million goal with support from the James Irvine Foundation, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Emerson Collective, The California Endowment, Weingart Foundation, the California Community Foundation, and Sunlight Giving, among others. The Fund’s grantmaking work, in coordination with state agencies, will support humanitarian relief, immigration legal assistance, wraparound services, mental health programs, holistic case management, and more.
“In times of crisis, it is imperative that we respond to challenges together, with purpose, empathy, and deep partnership,” said Marissa Tirona, President of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees. “We invite funders – and all Californians – to invest in the California Dignity for Families Fund and join us in welcoming and supporting newly arrived migrants and families.”
“In the midst of this humanitarian crisis, I am pleased that California is continuing to uphold the value of welcoming those most in need. Afghans fleeing for their lives are in dire need of these immediate benefits so that they may begin to rebuild their lives in the United States,” said Homayra Yusufi, Afghan American leader and Deputy Director at Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA). PANA is also a member of the Afghan-American Coalition.
California is also partnering with Airbnb to help provide free, temporary housing across the state to Afghan arrivals. Since announcing its commitment to help 20,000 Afghans worldwide, Airbnb has housed more than 100 Afghan arrivals across California thus far and will continue to welcome more in coordination with local refugee resettlement agencies.
Further support from the federal government will ensure successful resettlement in California and across the country. The governor urges Congress to work with the Biden Administration to act swiftly so all Afghans seeking refuge in the U.S. are afforded the proper benefits, services, and accessible pathways to stable immigration status in a timely manner. Newsom also supports President Biden’s commitment to work with U.S. international partners to ensure safe passage for many Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan for their protection and safety.
“We welcome our new neighbors from Afghanistan with open arms and are grateful for the many community-based organizations across the state who have stepped up to provide services with empathy and compassion,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.