Soviet Refugees:

Issues Affecting Domestic Resettlement

HRD-90-106BR: Published: Jun 26, 1990. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the domestic costs of resettling refugees admitted to the United States, particularly Soviet refugees.

GAO found that: (1) in 1988, the number of Soviet refugees greatly increased, and in fiscal year 1990, Soviet refugees became the largest group of refugees admitted to the United States; (2) since 1986, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refugee assistance to states has fallen by nearly 60 percent, primarily due to reimbursement reductions for cash and medical benefits; (3) organized programs or grants, public assistance, and private philanthropy support most refugees admitted to the United States; (4) since refugees settled in only a few states, resettlement costs were not spread evenly across the country; (5) neither public nor private-sector agencies involved in resettlement disaggregate costs for refugee groups; (6) estimates of resettlement costs for the average refugee ranged from $1,800 to over $7,000, but available cost estimates for all refugees varied widely; (7) public assistance to refugees was generally a very small percentage of total public assistance; (8) since passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, funding from HHS and the Department of State has been reduced, and some states have expressed concerns that federal agencies shifted resettlement costs to them; and (9) private-sector officials believed that even though federal cuts had increased their burden, they could still afford to resettle more Soviet refugees.

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