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Alderman pulls resolution to suspend resettlement

  • Associated Press
  • January 22, 2014 - 12:50 PM

APPLETON, Wis. — An Appleton alderman has withdrawn a resolution to suspend the resettlement of some refugees from Congo, Iraq and Myanmar until the impact of their arrival is assessed.

Alderman Jeff Jirschele wrote a resolution questioning the ability of the community to handle the 75 refugees arriving in waves through October. Jirschele told Post-Crescent Media (http://post.cr/1dUPEJh ) that the resolution's intent was to gauge the city's readiness, but the discussion spiraled into a critique about the entire resettlement process.

Assistance groups in Appleton say they are well prepared to handle the refugees.

Local officials say job training and placement will be handled, in part, through the state Wisconsin Work's, or W-2, program, said Jim Nitz, a program consultant with Forward Service Corp., a nonprofit employment agency.

"Forward Services has the state contract for W-2 and we've worked with other refugees that meet the requirements," Nitz said. "If they're ready for employment we'll help them with employment. If it's other family stabilization, we'll focus on that."

In addition to the temporary federal assistance through W-2, the refugees can receive temporary cash assistance and settlement services backed by the federal government. That portion is handled by World Relief Fox Valley, the group Jirschele claimed is "not vetted."

Nitz said Forward Service Corp. has collaborated with World Relief and brought other refugees to Oshkosh.

"My experience with World Relief has been very professional. They focus on workforce programs and know what they're doing," Nitz said. "I've been involved in a number of community resettlements and Appleton is taking a proactive approach to be prepared."

Appleton's only obligation for the resettlement effort is an initial health screening done by city public health nurses, city officials said. The screening will be funded by the state, Mayor Tim Hanna said.

Another organization that will help with the resettlement is the Hmong-American Partnership, based in Appleton.

Lo Lee, the group's executive director, said it is uniquely suited to "creating a road map" for the refugees, since thousands of Hmong refugees arrived in the Fox Valley from the 1980s through the early 2000s.

"We have two grants for the new arrivals from the federal government and state refugee office," Lee said. "One is to design the transportation assistance program and the other is to provide case management and job placement for them."

The group's understanding of the refugees' culture and home circumstances will be key in the resettlement, Lee said.

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