Protecting the economic wellbeing of immigrants and refugees during COVID-19

Publication date: 
April 2020

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), like social service organizations across the U.S., has had to rapidly adapt to an unprecedented model of service delivery at a time when America’s most vulnerable families are being profoundly impacted by the dual impact of a public health crisis and an economic shut down.

As of April 15, 2020, more than 22 million Americans have been laid off ,representing 1 in 7 workers, and low-income communities, communities of color, and linguistically and culturally isolated families are facing ever deepening challenges.

The goal of this brief report is to provide a succinct, “real-time” snapshot of the main economic challengesthat families are facing, adaptationsthat IRC programs are making, and the lessons that are emerging as IRC continues to deliver economic empowerment programming across 26 U.S. cities.

Like many social service providers, the communities the IRC serves are overwhelmingly poor and in addition, more than 95% of those served by the IRC are immigrants and refugees who generally speak English less than well and are much more likely to have weak digital literacy skills as compared to native born Americans,which makes service delivery during a time of physical separation challenging.

By sharing this ever-evolving, “real-time” picture, the IRC hopes to contribute to the capacity of all stakeholders –practitioners, policymakers, and funders –to forge a collaborative, effective response for America’s most vulnerable.This brief was developed by the Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration (RAI) US Economic Empowerment technical unit and draws heavily on itse ngagement with more than 160 field staff during the last 30 days. These staff serve more than 14,000 clients annually in workforce development, financial capability, and small business programs.