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HHS Deputy Secretary and ACF Assistant Secretary Visit Operation Allies Welcome National Conference Center

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm visited the National Conference Center (NCC) Safe Haven to thank federal partners for their dedication and hard work to support the Biden-Harris Administration’s Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) initiative which has facilitated more than 80,000 Afghan nationals to join communities across the country. Deputy Secretary Palm was accompanied by Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Assistant Secretary January Contreras and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Acting Director Andrea Chapman for the visit.

During the visit, Deputy Secretary Palm, Assistant Secretary Contreras, and Director Chapman toured the facility, met with federal employees and contractors, observed current operations, and attended briefings on OAW and NCC successes. As the final part of their visit, they welcomed Afghan nationals arriving at the facility for the first chapter in their lives in the United States.

“It was an honor to visit the National Conference Center Safe Haven today and express my gratitude for the hard work and dedication our federal employees and partners have exhibited as part of Operation Allies Welcome. A priority of the Biden-Harris Administration, OAW has required strong collaboration and teamwork to safely welcome and resettle over 80,000 Afghan allies in the United States. As I saw firsthand today, the work being done at the National Conference Center is only the first step towards resettlement. HHS remains committed to the critical mission of supporting our Afghan allies as they settle into communities across the country.” said HHS Deputy Secretary Palm.

“As part of HHS’ efforts, ACF is proud to contribute to this unprecedented resettlement effort. Not only have we supported the resettlement of thousands of Afghan families in new communities and connected them with vital resources to build their lives here in the U.S., but the Office of Refugee Resettlement has also worked with more than 1,200 minors to unify them with family or a vetted sponsor,” shared ACF Assistant Secretary Contreras. “We could not be more proud to be a part of the journey of Afghan families and children.”

To better understand the needs and experience of Afghan evacuees after they leave the NCC, ORR conducted a voluntary and anonymous survey that gathered information in June from evacuees about their well-being across critical resettlement domains, including housing, employment, education, and community integration. Some top findings include:

  • While over three-quarters of survey respondents spent some time in temporary housing, nearly all have transitioned to permanent housing. 97% of respondents reported they were in permanent housing. 78% reported stays in temporary housing of varying duration after leaving a military base prior to their transition into permanent housing.
  • Most survey respondents reported feeling welcome in the United States. 81% of respondents reported feeling somewhat or very welcome in the United States.
  • Most survey respondents are employed. 65% reported they were employed or self-employed, and 76% reported that at least one adult in their household was working.

These findings highlight how Afghans have demonstrated great resilience as they start this new chapter in their lives.

The unprecedented nature of the Afghan resettlement required extraordinary efforts by government and civil society. To alleviate some of the challenges Afghans face, ORR has been providing benefits and services, such as time-limited cash and medical assistance and job readiness training, to eligible Afghans through its private-public recipient network, including states, national and local resettlement agencies, and other faith-based and community-based organizations. To ensure this support continues, ORR has issued a solicitation to secure a contractor to expand immigration-related services for eligible Afghans and their families. This new contract will supplement efforts already underway by states and grant recipients to provide additional legal services, technical assistance, and coordination support where needed to best support these new arrivals. Interested organizations are encouraged to apply by August 29, 2022.