California governor seeks $16.7M in aid for Afghan refugees

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FILE – In this Aug. 24, 2021, file photo, provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, families walk towards their flight during ongoing evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan. A school district in a San Diego suburb that is home to a large refugee population says many of its families who had taken summer trips to Afghanistan to see their relatives have gotten stuck there with the chaos following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. (Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/U.S. Marine Corps via AP, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s governor and legislative leaders on Friday requested $16.7 million in state money to help resettle Afghan refugees in the state.

The request to use general fund money to help those fleeing the Taliban takeover signals “that California stands ready to assist those in need,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “As the nation’s most diverse state, we don’t simply tolerate diversity, we celebrate it.”

The funding request by Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon was expected to be considered during next week’s legislative session.

With support from leaders of both houses, the request is unlikely to face serious opposition in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

The money would provide cash assistance and other help for refugees who don’t qualify for certain federal refugee benefits and public assistance programs because they don’t hold special visas but are being admitted into the United States on humanitarian grounds, Newsom said.

Some arriving refugees are potentially eligible for Medi-Cal and state-funded aid but only those arriving with children are eligible for CalWORKs, the state-funded public assistance program.

Newsom is proposing to temporarily expand the Trafficking and Crime Victim Assistance Program to cover those aid gaps, he said.

“These refugees gave our service members help in Afghanistan and it is only fitting we give them hope when they come to California,” said Atkins, a Democrat. “When I was growing up, the golden rule was that no matter how little you had, you help those in need. We are blessed to be in a position in California where we have enough funding to help ease these refugees’ transition into our society.”

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