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Economy

County Receives Surprise Notice About Increased Funding For Refugee Programs

Recently arrived refugees practice answering questions for a typical job interview in a vocational English as a second language classroom, Sept. 17, 2018.
Tarryn Mento
Recently arrived refugees practice answering questions for a typical job interview in a vocational English as a second language classroom, Sept. 17, 2018.

San Diego County will receive additional dollars for refugee employment services this fiscal year after a decline in refugee arrivals contributed to a previous funding reduction.

An October letter from the state shows the county will receive a million dollars more than 2017. The $3.3 million allocation will go toward job training, vocational English as a second language classes and additional support for refugees with families.

Maggie Ramsberger, who oversees the county’s refugee employment services program, said the news was unexpected considering the continued decrease in arriving refugees, to which some funding is tied.

"We were definitely surprised," Ramsberger said in a Monday phone interview.

Ramsberger said the budget bump will go toward contracted providers that offer employment support to newcomers who have lived here for up to five years. The previous funding decrease caused one provider, the International Rescue Committee located in City Heights, to cut staff for its English classes that also help immigrants find a job, known as vocational English as a second language or VESL.

"Opportunities like having additional vocational ESL training, being able to provide those on-the-job training opportunities and then also to do those targeted events to help with refugee employment by making connections with area employers is really important," Ramsberger said.

A spokesman for the California Department of Social Services said funding for each county is calculated by how long the region's refugees have been living in the U.S. The number of those who have been in the country for less than one year weigh heavier in the determination than those living here between one and two years or two to five years, Michael Weston said in an email.

Weston said the department "cannot speculate" on the allocation for next year.

Refugee arrivals are expected to remain low this year because the Trump administration further reduced the ceiling on those allowed in the U.S.