Nonprofit agencies resettling Afghan evacuees in New York state will receive a financial boost of $2 million.
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the grants when she joined a remote panel set up by Bard College, which has offered tuition-free admission to 100 Afghan students so far.
“I’m eternally grateful for the kind of support I have received from Bard College because the journey that I had all the way from Kabul to the states, it’s been chaotic,” said Jalil Sadat, 21, who was studying at American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, before fleeing the country in August when the Taliban took over the capital.
After the Biden administration pulled the last U.S. troops out of the country, Sadat said, being a student at an American university made him a target.
“It was difficult for me, because it all happened in a matter of hours,” he said.
His family is still in Afghanistan, facing an uncertain future. Sadat said his mother had worked for the attorney general’s office and his brother worked as a contractor for the U.S. military and the defense ministry. His two sisters are law school graduates.
Sadat said his education enabled him to communicate better with the U.S. Marines at Kabul International Airport as he sought to leave. He was initially denied entry, he said, until he showed a picture of his passport and student ID on his phone. One of the first things he did when he arrived in the U.S. was email a Bard professor that had taught one of his online American University classes.
New York has agreed to help resettle 1,790 Afghans in coming months, 1,000 of whom have already arrived. The latest $2 million in funding will bolster $3 million already allotted for the program in the state budget. The funds will be distributed through the state’s Enhanced Services Refugee Program, part of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
The funding is expected to be awarded to about a dozen organizations to support services including medical and mental-health care, language skills, job training, cultural education and legal assistance. There will also be case management for children to ensure they are enrolled in school.
“Their success will also be a beacon of hope for others seeking refuge from violence and persecution,” said Hochul of students who have left Afghanistan and continued their education.
The resettlements are part of Operation Allies Welcome, the federal Department of Homeland Security’s effort to evacuate Afghans who worked with the U.S military coalition.
“These allies are translators, they’re veterans, they’re humanitarian workers, journalists, women’s rights activists and others who put themselves in harm’s way to support peace security and justice in Afghanistan alongside the US mission there,” said former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, the White House coordinator for the operation.
The biggest challenge in New York City is finding housing for evacuees, said Bill Swersey, spokesman for HIAS, a Maryland-based national nonprofit that helps settle refugees.
Swersey said high rents made it more difficult to settle evacuees here than other cities in the state, such as Buffalo.
“Everybody’s trying to get these people off military bases as quickly as possible,” he said.