How Much Money Does a Refugee Get from the U.S. Government?


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A steadily increasing amount of government dollars are being attributed to financial and medical aid for refugees living in America. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Refugee Resettlement, $633 million was budgeted for this specific kind of support in 2009, which is up from $484 million distributed in 2005. The amount this translates to for the individual can vary greatly.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program

The U.S. Federal Government sponsors a state-distributed assistance program for any needy families, including those of refugees. The purpose of this assistance is to aid the under-resourced, and applicants must prove their state of need. Being state-run, there are variances in the amount you will receive based on where you reside. To further compound the issue, maximum monthly payments are also defined by family size and number of parents/caregivers. For example, the monthly assistance available in Texas for one individual is $109, but the maximum for a family of four with two parents is $320.

Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA)

For refugee families and individuals who are ineligible for TANF, there exists a supplementary program designed specifically for refugee aid. This support is available for the first 8 months after arrival to the U.S. and represents forms of medical coverage and cash distributions. Again, being run by individual states, the dollar amount received will vary. In Washington, families receive payments based on family size, income and financial resources available. As an example, a family of 6 with no income will receive $866 per month.

Non-Cash Benefits

Many non-cash benefits exist for refugees, including employment services, English-language instruction, vocational training, skills certification, day-care and transportation, along with an extensive number of other services designed to help refugees find gainful employment in America.


Some of the key restrictions for these services include how long an individual/family has been living in the country, income and assets available. While TANF funding is broadly available, RCA is limited to those who have most recently come to the country. Another restriction is income, where funding can be reduced or cut depending on the level of family income. Additionally, for families with substantial financial assets, assistance may not be available, even though family income may be very low or zero.