Do Refugees Get More Monthly Benefits Than Social Security Recipients?

No.

Instagram users have recently resurfaced old viral tweets from Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk in 2019, in which he claimed that “the government pays $2,125/month in refugee benefits to refugees resettled in the United States” while Americans receiving Social Security benefits receive an average of only $1,400 a month.

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Refugee resettlement is overseen by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, part of the Department of State. A State Department spokesperson told The Dispatch Fact Check that refugee resettlement agencies receive “a one-time per capita amount of $2,275 [from the State Department] … of which $1,225 is available for agencies to use to fund critical direct assistance needs such as housing and basic necessities, including food, clothing, and furnishings during the first 30-90 days in their new communities.” The spokesperson also noted that this funding goes to resettlement agencies, with the remaining $1,050 being used “to cover the administrative and operational costs of resettlement assistance services.” A refugee receives funds directly from the U.S. government only “in the rare event that they have established family or friend relationships who are able to meet their basic needs such as housing.” In such a case, the $1,225 earmarked for basic necessities may then go to the refugee instead of a resettlement agency. This money is a one-time payment, not monthly as Kirk’s tweet claimed.

According to the State Department spokesperson, some refugees may receive further benefits through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which works with states and non-governmental organizations “to provide longer-term cash and medical assistance, as well as English language, employment, and social services.” The Office of Refugee Resettlement website states that cash and medical assistance are “time-limited,” unlike Social Security benefits. The medical assistance lasts for only up to eight months. 

Refugees are eligible for welfare, meaning they may receive government benefits such as Medicaid or SNAP. The State Department spokesperson noted, however, that “Afghans granted humanitarian parole are not currently eligible for these benefits in general.”

As of January 2021, the average monthly Social Security check is $1,543. (This is higher than what is mentioned in the Kirk tweet, though it should be noted again that his tweet was from 2019 and the average Social Security check increases every year.)

Turning Point USA representative Andrew Kolvet told The Dispatch Fact Check that Kirk’s claim was based on a 2018 PolitiFact article, which states that at the time the State Department’s grant per refugee was $2,125. The article states that this is a one-time grant, not a monthly cost as Kirk claimed. 

Kolvet said that “while the $2,125 is ostensibly a one time initial cost to taxpayers, it is not as HHS is claiming, simply a one time sum and that’s the extent of the cost to taxpayers. Until they say what the average cost is, it could be much higher.”

Despite Kolvet’s defense of the claim, Kirk has deleted the tweets, though they are still captured in the internet archive Wayback Machine. 

It’s incorrect to say that the government pays more to refugees per month than it does to Americans drawing from Social Security. Refugees do not receive monthly payments from the government, and all benefits that they do receive to assist in their resettlement are either one-time payments or time-limited.

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