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Amaal Al-Mifraji, the Iraqi woman featured in our story about how San Diego County has been inappropriately denying refugee welfare applications, has had her application for assistance approved, her resettlement case manager told me.
The case manager, Basima Odeesho, said Al-Mifraji was granted two months’ worth of cash aid totaling $1,142 on Thursday, including March, when she was originally denied, and another payment for this month.
On Friday morning I heard from Dale Fleming, a county Health and Human Services director, who told me the county had reviewed its records to identify refugee applicants who had been inappropriately denied assistance.
“We’re committed to correcting any errors on our part,” Fleming said. “We regret any inconvenience these families may have suffered.”
Fleming said her office had reviewed its records dating back to January 2010. That’s when the federal government first increased the amount of money it gives to new refugees to help them resettle in the United States. That increase pushed some families over the income limits to qualify for traditional welfare. The county should have then considered them for an alternative cash assistance program that is supposed to be in place to help refugees for that very reason. It hadn’t been doing that.
In reviewing its records, Fleming said, the agency found eight refugee families who had been denied welfare and then not been considered for the alternative program.
It has since reevaluated those families’ applications and found three qualified for the alternative program, Fleming said, while the other five did not. She also said the county has finished updating the instruction manual workers use to ensure refugees who are denied welfare get referred to the appropriate program.
Local refugee resettlement agencies have reported that at least a few dozen of their refugee clients have been potentially affected by the county’s incorrect processing of refugees’ applications for assistance. Some have been denied welfare cash aid, and others have had their food stamps denied or reduced.
On Friday, Fleming said her department was still sorting out how many refugees may have had their food stamp allocations affected and is working with resettlement workers to sort the problems out.