Akron Beacon Journal | Area agencies that work with refugees cutting staff due to Trump cutback in amount U.S. will accept

The International Institute of Akron will lay off nine employees, and other agencies that work with refugees in the Akron area say they will not fill job vacancies as they prepare for the impact of President Donald Trump’s decision to curtail the nation’s resettlement program.

Last month, Trump signed an executive order cutting the number of refugees accepted into the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000.

Refugee is a status applied by the United Nations to a person fleeing their home country to escape war, persecution and violence.

The United States has already resettled 34,000 refugees this year, so “refugee resettlement as an industry is having to adjust to this new volume,” said Kara Ulmer, director of World Relief Akron.

Locally, the agency hardest hit is the International Institute of Akron, a federally appointed resettlement organization that last year resettled 643 people in the Akron area.

On Thursday, the institute — whose funding is tied to the number of refugees sent here to be resettled — announced it will reduce its workforce by nine.

The agency declined to say how many people it currently employs.

“We have not yet been notified how many refugees we can expect to arrive in Akron this year, but it will be significantly fewer than in recent years when we have resettled about 600 annually,” the institute said in a statement.

“International Institute of Akron will continue to welcome those refugees who are resettled and will, in conjunction with our community partners, provide them with the same exceptional services that we have in the past,” the agency said.

World Relief Akron is the other local resettlement program, albeit much smaller.

The agency opened in 2015 and has resettled 260 refugees.

Ulmer said World Relief had plans to add a sixth staff member this year to oversee a new project on connecting refugees to “self-sustaining employment.” Instead, that position will not be added and the staff will shrink to four by not replacing another employee who resigned last month.

Meanwhile, the national World Relief organization announced it would close five of its 27 offices across the country, including one in Columbus.

“I did a lot of advocating for Akron,” Ulmer said. “Akron is a very welcoming community.”

At Asian Services in Action (ASIA), Chief Executive Officer Michael Byun said he may not fill staff vacancies as they occur this year.

But because ASIA has more than 45 funding sources and is less dependent on federal financing, there is no immediate need for layoffs, he said.

ASIA, founded in 1996 with offices in Akron and Cleveland, uses more than 100 part-time and full-time employees to serve about 10,000 refugees throughout Northeast Ohio with health care, job placement, education and basic social services.

There will be some programs immediately affected, he said, such as one that gives health care screenings to new arrivals.

But the impact on most services will be more noticeable in the months to come as existing refugees acclimate and the number seeking assistance dwindles.

“In the long run I think we’ll see some of these funding streams reduced,” Byun said. “We will be conservative and cautious, and ask private donors to keep helping us.”

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