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Refugee Services of Texas announces major budget shortfall, pause in new arrivals

Christina Ulsh
KERA News special contributor

Refugee Services of Texas, one of the main refugee resettlement agencies in the state, is facing a major budget shortfall forcing it to close two offices, cut staff and pause new refugee arrivals.

In a statement issued Wednesday morning, the agency describes the record number of refugees it resettled during the past 18 months and that it's now dealing with a “severe budget shortfall crisis." As a result, the agency said it's implementing what it describes as an emergency restructuring plan.

"We had a historic number of refugees resettled by our program throughout Texas and in the process we drew down our resources very rapidly to fill in the gap between what the government provides for services and then what we are required to raise privately for resettlement services," said Chris Kelley, spokesperson for Refugees Services of Texas. "We extended ourselves dramatically to try and resettle these record number of folks and then worked very hard to raise private funds, but we have not succeeded in doing as much fundraising as we need to do."

Kelley said the agency is asking for the public's help.

Under its restructuring plan, Refugee Services of Texas, or RST, is:

  • Closing two of its offices located in Fort Worth and Houston.

  • Cutting its staff by 45 percent, from 241 employees as of April 30 to 134 employees at the end of June.
  • Considering furloughing some of its remaining staff.
  • Pausing new refugee arrivals for 120 days as the agency restructures and realigns its budget.
  • Planning to raise $4 million by June 1.
  • Since late March, the agency has featured a notice on its website asking the public for financial support. The message says the agency received an unexpected number of refugees last year and that it’s “now facing a critical budget shortfall.”

    In its statement, RST said it expects to “weather the storm” and be able to serve new clients in the future.

    This story is developing.

    Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

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    StellaChávezisKERA’seducation reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years atThe Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35. The award-winning entry was “Yolanda’s Crossing,” a seven-partDMN series she co-wrote that reconstructs the 5,000-mile journey of a young Mexican sexual-abuse victim from a smallOaxacanvillage to Dallas. For the last two years, she worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,where she was part of the agency’s outreach efforts on the Affordable Care Act and ran the regional office’s social media efforts.