Photo by Firoz Sidiqy via Unsplash
By Lisa Cirincione, Senior Resource Development Associate at Joining Vision and Action
I’m sure that you, like all of us at JVA, have been paying attention to the humanitarian crisis happening in Afghanistan.
It has been heartening to see so many businesses and institutions stepping up to help Afghan refugees. For example, universities are offering scholarships and using their gymnasiums to temporarily house refugees while permanent placements are found. Airbnb is also temporarily housing 20,000 Afghan refugees for free. Businesses such as Texas Medical Technology plan to hire refugees. Verizon temporarily waived charges for its customers’ calls to Afghanistan.
Seeing examples like this is inspiring, and you may be wondering if your nonprofit can play a role in helping the refugees who were evacuated from Afghanistan. Since JVA vigilantly monitors funding opportunities, we wanted to share with you what are seeing.
Resettlement agency weakened
Unfortunately, the short answer is that funding has been limited so far.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)—the federal agency that helps newcomers to the U.S. become integrated members of American society—was largely dismantled over the last four years as the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. was reduced.
This has left the infrastructure to support resettlement ill-equipped to assist the Afghans that the U.S. evacuated (approximately 73,500 people [official numbers have not yet been released]).
Emergency funds authorized
While that is depressing, funding to help Afghan refugees may be on its way.
Recognizing the urgent need and lack of infrastructure, on August 16, President Biden authorized up to $500 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund (ERMA). ERMA is administered by the Department of State for the purpose of meeting unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs of refugees, victims of conflict and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan, including applicants for Special Immigrant Visas.
Such assistance may be provided on a bilateral or multilateral basis as appropriate, including through contributions to international organizations and through funding to other nongovernmental organizations, governments, and U.S. departments and agencies.
The president has the authority to allocate funding for ERMA without Congress’ approval, and it is not yet known how ERMA funding will be distributed. The Department of State’s funding opportunities webpage does not show any recent grant competitions, and a search on grants.gov does not show any current competitions to support Afghan refugees, but that is likely to change as the department begins to disburse ERMA funds.
Other funding sources
Aside from this newly authorized federal funding, we are happy to share that Airbnb created the $25 million Refugee Fund, to further expand its support of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide foundations. So far, those funds have been awarded to recipients that Airbnb preselected, but it is possible that it will hold grant competitions in the future.
Walmart also donated $1 million to organizations helping Afghan refugees in the U.S.
In addition, the Open Society Foundations has created a $10 million Afghanistan emergency fund to support Afghans in grave danger—including champions of human rights, women’s rights and journalists—by expanding immediate protection opportunities. Called the Afghanistan Emergency Humanitarian Fund, it will help support sponsorship for humanitarian parole programs in the United States that provide a pathway to temporary refuge for those in harm’s way.
The fund will bolster international relief organizations in their efforts to support Afghan citizens fleeing the Taliban. And the fund will aid other efforts to deliver humanitarian relief to internally displaced Afghans and those fleeing to other countries taking them in.
There is not yet information on the Open Society Foundations website that shows how this funding will be dispersed.
Searching and sharing
So, the bottom line is: Stay tuned.
JVA will continue to research funding sources to help these people who desperately need to feel safe and welcome, and we’ll share what we learn on our funding opportunities page, as well as in the JVA 411 newsletter.