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Federal money and new state committee will help refugees in AZ

Over the next year, Maricopa County is expected to welcome several thousand refugees, and the majority will call Phoenix home. 

The city is using $8.3 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to support local nonprofits that serve refugees, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Arizona Immigration and Refugees Services, Catholic Charities Community Services and Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest.

Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari said funds are available for medical, dental, transportation, legal and food needs. “We have a duty to continue to provide proactive policy that will strengthen our economy and deliver the promise of a better life to these individuals,” she said.

During a news conference earlier this month, Army veteran and former state Sen. Steve Kaizer recalled helping his interpreter from Afghanistan through the resettlement process.

“There’s a million agencies and nonprofits and I asked what is the list of resources he gets and what are the resources he doesn’t get? And I couldn't even get that answer and, at the time, and I was an elected official instate government and I still couldn't open any doors,” he said.

Kaiser’s bipartisan legislation,  SB 1563, passed this year will create the New American Talent Study Committee. Modeled after other states’ efforts, the committee will evaluate policies, address labor shortages and examine existing programs.

“And really we just wanted to get all the people together in a room after session — all the state agencies, nonprofits, community groups, members — and discuss OK, where are the gaps? What are the roadblocks? How can we smooth things out, make it more streamlined? And so that’s the goal of what we’re doing,” Kaiser said.

The committee will present recommendations to government, business and educational groups. 

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.