The last remaining refugee resettlement agency in Iowa has decided to continue operations after learning the federal government is increasing funding. The Catholic Charities Board of Directors voted Wednesday to maintain the placement services they began providing 70 years ago.
Catholic Charities Program Director Sol Varisco says the boost in funding will allow them to place up to 130 new refugees a year, which she says is good news for Iowa’s current refugees.
“A lot of the people we have already placed here now can not bring their mom, son, brother or sister,” Varisco said. “So we are going to concentrate within those 130 to only (place persons with) relatives already here so they don’t have to go to another state and then move here.”
Catholic Charities has long partnered with Lutheran Services to help place refugees fleeing war or political and religious persecution. But when Lutheran Services announced it would discontinue its program, Catholic Charities debated doing the same.
“We help refugees, pick them up at the airport, set up housing with furniture and provide an orientation about the different kinds of laws we have,” Varisco said. “We help refugees register their kids in a school and provide work readiness to help with job placement.”
Last year, more than 900 refugees resettled in Iowa. With the state ending its own program earlier this year Catholic Charities now becomes the only agency in Iowa still placing refugees.