Faith groups are praising Oregon Gov. Kate Brown for including funds for extended case management for refugees in her recommended 2021-23 budget.

Catholic Charities of Oregon, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Lutheran Community Services Northwest and other members of the Oregon Refugee Resettlement Collaborative issued a statement of thanks on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed the Welcoming Refugees Bill, making Oregon one of the first states to adopt extended case management, which provides refugees with two years of employment services, support for school-age children, housing and cultural orientation. Catholic Charities and other agencies advocated for the legislation.

If the governor’s recommended budget is passed by lawmakers, it includes $2 million for the services.

“These supports have been even more needed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Brittney Manchester, communications director for Catholic Charities. “This gesture of solidarity for Oregon’s newcomers is unprecedented and clearly demonstrates Oregon’s commitment to helping refugees rebuild their lives.”

Matthew Westerbeck, director of refugee services at Catholic Charities of Oregon, called the funding a huge step forward.

“The state is investing in long-term services for refugees and bringing awareness to what refugees need once they are resettled. And this investment is an investment in all of us,” Westerbeck said.

He explained that aid in the first years after refugees arrive stabilizes resettlement, increases the possibility of success and ensures that refugees can reunite with their families.

Westerbeck said that refugees bring “immense contributions to the economy, diversity, and social fabric of our state.”

According to Catholic Charities, refugees who receive extended case management for two years are generally employed within six months and are significantly less likely to depend on public assistance long-term.

The funds come after federal spending cuts and the pandemic curtailed help for refugees, said Salah Ansary, regional director for Lutheran Community Services.

Jan Elfers, president of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, said Oregon plays a critical role in the global response to the refugee crisis.

“As the number of refugee families admitted to the United States has dwindled, our state has defended our country’s longstanding tradition of protecting the persecuted and ensuring that our nation remains a beacon of hope for decades to come,” Elfers said.

Catholic Charities of Oregon has assisted refugees since the early 1940s. Despite less federal funding, the agency has provided almost 4,000 hours of case management to more than 150 refugee families in the past year.