Refugee Resettlement:

Unused Federal Funds in 1991 and 1992

HRD-94-44: Published: Dec 7, 1993. Publicly Released: Dec 7, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal assistance for resettling refugees admitted to the United States, focusing on: (1) unused fiscal year (FY) 1991 and FY 1992 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funds for refugee cash and medical assistance; (2) the reason why HHS assistance funds were not spent; (3) whether refugees could have received cash and medical assistance for a longer period than they did; (4) the reasonableness of proposed HHS changes to eligibility regulations for cash and medical aid; and (5) unspent HHS matching funds for voluntary agencies in FY 1991 and FY 1992 and the reasons they were not spent.

GAO found that: (1) HHS did not spend 4 percent of its FY 1991 appropriated funds for refugee cash and medical assistance and 7 percent of its FY 1992 funds, but it reimbursed states for their cash and medical costs with the unused funds; (2) HHS tried to avoid overspending for refugee cash and medical assistance by limiting the eligibility period, which resulted in some unspent funds at the end of FY 1991 and FY 1992; (3) in FY 1992, unspent funds were sufficient to extend the benefit period to 13 months; (4) HHS cannot predict the assistance program's funding needs because of uncertainties in estimating the number of refugees entering the United States and how many will qualify for benefits; (5) HHS has proposed a regulation that would allow it to change the eligibility period without having to follow rulemaking procedures and establish the methodology for determining the length of the eligibility period; (6) HHS should have more flexibility to adjust the eligibility period to reflect changes in available funds, refugee arrivals, and other factors, but it should avoid making frequent changes that could disrupt state assistance programs; (7) the proposed methodology is reasonable if the basis for estimating certain costs is reasonably determined; and (8) HHS did not spend 26 percent and 19 percent of matching funds available for voluntary agencies in FY 1991 and FY 1992, respectively, because one voluntary agency that received the most matching funds had fewer refugees to resettle than it anticipated.

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