World Relief Refugee Agency Closes Down Nashville Office

Refugee resettlement contractors are blaming President Trump’s temporary suspension of the program for forcing them to reduce staff, close local offices or put local offices in jeopardy of closing. World Relief explained the five local resettlement offices closures including Nashville:

“As a direct result of the recent decision by the Trump Administration to dramatically reduce the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. throughout fiscal year 2017, World Relief has been forced to make the difficult decision to layoff 140+ staff members across its U.S. Ministry and close local offices in Boise, Idaho; Columbus, Ohio; Miami, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Glen Burnie, Maryland. Collectively, these five offices have resettled more than 25,000 refugees over the past four decades.”

WR’s Nashville website says it has a staff of 30 and the Memphis office has 13 employees. The last available data from fiscal year 2012 shows the Nashville office proposing to resettle 708 refugees.

World Relief (WR), based in Baltimore, is one of nine national refugee resettlement organizations that sign a “Cooperative Agreement” with the U.S. State Department for the “Reception & Placement”(R&P) grant.  This is taxpayer money allocated for each refugee. Some of the money is used to provide basic necessities for the refugee and some of the money is retained by the local resettlement agency.

From fiscal year 2016 -17, the federal government has paid a total of $293,393,842 in R&P grants. WR received $30,926,392 in R&P grants that were spread across their local resettlement offices.  The local offices also receive federal funding through grants administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

World Relief is paid by the federal government to bring refugees to 25 cities across the U.S. including Nashville and Memphis.

The Cooperative Agreement signed by WR headquarters and the other national resettlement organizations cautions the agencies that the public money being paid to them to resettle refugees in local communities, is only “intended to augment private resources available to the Recipient [refugee resettlement agency].” (emphasis added).

However, according to WR’s 2014 IRS Form 990, the latest available, our of a total $58,487,081 gift/grants income reported, $42,589,050 or 73% of the budget was funded with taxpayer money. A 990 for the local WR Tennessee offices was not available as of this writing.

Review of WR’s fiscal year 2010 proposed resettlement plan for Nashville raises the question of the adequacy of the services the agency was providing to arriving refugees:

“The Nashville area offers numerous services through other non-profit organizations to refugees with critical and emergency needs. Refugees can visit the Nashville Rescue Mission for shelter [a homeless organization], food and safety, as well as Room in the Inn [a homeless organization] which provides working men with a hot meal and a place to sleep during the winter months. There are several shelters for abused women in the area where refugee women and children can find safety if necessary. Rooftop Ministries provides one-time assistance with rent payments: Wherry Housing Complex in Rutherford County houses refugees and others recovering from alcohol and substance abuse and has a Community Servants program to meet refugee needs.”

In 2011, two Iraqi refugees resettled in Bowling Green, Kentucky, were arrested for trying to provide weapons, explosives, money and other resources to al-Qaida in Iraq. As a result, the Obama administration imposed additional security screenings in the middle of the fiscal year and refugee arrival numbers were dramatically reduced.

Predictably, the refugee resettlement agencies began to complain about the reduced cash flow.

“Like many other resettlement offices, the World Relief branch in Durham, North Carolina, relies on per-refugee grants to pay staff. When no refugees arrived in Durham between late February and April, the office cut employee pay by 8 hours a week. Nationally, World Relief and Church World Service offices have experienced significant layoffs because of a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy.”

World Relief is not the only resettlement contractor that has relied almost solely on taxpayer funding instead of raising its money as directed by the agreement they sign with the State Department.  If they had, perhaps the Nashville office would still be open.

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