Refugee Assistance Program Under the Fiscal Year 1980 Continuing Resolution

B-197636: Feb 25, 1980

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The Under Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) requested an opinion concerning the amount of funds appropriated for refugee assistance by the "Joint Resolution Making Further Continuing Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 1980, and for other purposes." The Secretary contended that by incorporating the amounts provided for under the Departments of Labor, and Health, Education, and Welfare, and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 1980 with the funds appropriated by the resolution, the resolution appropriated sufficient funds to support an additional 14,000 newly arrived Indochinese refugees per month for the entire fiscal year. GAO held that it was clear from the legislative statements leading to the resolution, that Congress intended to appropriate sufficient funds to provide assistance for the additional refugees to fulfill the Presidential commitment made at the Tokyo summit conference. GAO recognized that in the past it repeatedly interpreted the term "current rate," as used in continuing resolutions, as referring to a sum of money rather than a program level. However, none of the previous decisions contained such a clear indication of the intention of Congress to continue a program at a funding level greater than the amount of funds available for the program in the previous year. Therefore, GAO concluded that the fiscal year 1980 continuing resolution appropriated sufficient funds to extend the assistance authorized by the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act to the additional 14,000 refugees each month for the entire fiscal year.