Refugees are eligible for the same social programs that U.S. citizens are eligible for upon their arrival to the United States. This includes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, SNAP, and the like. Refugee eligibility for these programs is determined by income, just as it is for U.S. born citizens, and they are held to the same program requirements and conditions. When refugees first arrive to the U.S., they have no resources and typically enroll in these benefit programs. At the same time, they participate in programs with a refugee resettlement agency focused on obtaining employment, learning English and achieving self-sufficiency. Once they become employed, they report their income and often become ineligible for public benefits.
Newly arrived singles and couples without minor children, and therefore ineligible for TANF, can apply for Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA). In order to maintain this benefit, refugees must participate in English classes and Employment Services. RCA is income-based, which means that once a refugee starts their first job in the U.S., they often become income ineligible for this program. These benefits are available for a maximum of eight months after arrival in the U.S.
Resettlement agencies also operate a Matching Grant program which is a 4-6 month self-sufficiency program that is an alternative to public cash assistance (TANF).
Additionally, while a refugee’s travel to the U.S. is funded by the U.S. Department of State by way of an interest free loan, they must start making payments on this loan six months after arrival.