Citing the continuing influx of refugees into their jurisdictions, Arlington and Fairfax county officials are fighting proposed reductions in federal funds they say are crucial to successful resettlement of the newcomers.
Meeting with Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and a host of state and federal officials last week, the local representatives argued that demands on their social services budgets, already severely strained, will grow because immigrants continue to resettle in their counties.
At the hour-long closed meeting, requested by John F. Herrity, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the local officials discussed a broad range of budgetary and regulatory changes affecting refugee resettlement that they want enacted.
But the focus, Herrity said, was on a federal Office of Management and Budget plan to cut nearly $20 million from a proposed allocation of $70.4 million to social services programs for refugees nationwide.
OMB would have the money transferred to a general-welfare account that covers direct cash aid and medical assistance to refugees -- a move local officials say would be counterproductive. The social services programs, they contend, support language and job-training services geared to helping the refugees get off public assistance.
At the end of the session, Warner and Wolf said they would appeal to OMB for restoration of the $20 million to the social services account. They said they also would ask the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Relocation for further support. That office, which is responsible for refugee aid programs, already has asked OMB to reconsider the shift of funds.
"In this particular case, it is right, just and fair to come to the federal government because it is their irresponsible policies that allow a free flow of refugees into the country," said Arlington County Board member Dorothy T. Grotos, who was joined at the meeting by fellow board member Walter L. Frankland. "It was their policy, so I think it is their responsibility to help out."
Rob Koreski, director of Fairfax's Office of Human Services, said refugees, primarily Indochinese, account for at least 7,000 of the county's 600,000 residents, or 1 percent of the population. There may be many more living in Fairfax, however, because the county has records only on those who were processed, or screened, in Fairfax and many refugees were screened in other parts of the country, Koreski said.
In Arlington County, nearly 8,000 of the county's 152,000 residents, or 6 percent, have been processed by the county's Department of Human Resources, according to its director, Martin P. Wasserman, who attended last week's meeting. Arlington, Wasserman said, has the highest per capita concentration of Indochinese refugees in the nation.
Arlington had requested $932,000 in federal social service payments for fiscal 1982, Wasserman said, but was told last month that it will get only $350,000.
As a result, he said, the county "will realize a substantial decline in its ability to provide effective and efficient services for this (refugee) population and will have to terminate some services to our indigenous population to provide assistance to refugees, who comprise 40 percent of our medically indigent population."
Arguing that the federal government should supply more help to communities affected by immigration policies, Wasserman added that he is concerned about "the impact on community attitudes" if services such as maternity and child medical care are cut back because of the increasing cost of aiding the refugees.
Fairfax County, Koreski said, had been expecting $857,000 in federal aid this fiscal year for social service programs for refugees, but now expects to get only $398,000 if the proposed cuts are made. Some programs, he said, will have to run at "minimum-service" level as a result.
Herrity, accompanied at the meeting by Mason District Supervisor Tom Davis and Koreski, said there are other refugee-related problems that need attention.
He complained that when there is a surplus in the cash-assistance funds, officials are prohibited from transferring the extra money to the social services account. Such transfers should be permitted, he said.
Herrity also spoke against a proposal to decrease from 36 months to 18 months the time in which new refugees qualify for aid under the Refugee Relief Act. The shortened aid period eventually would put a larger burden on welfare programs, he said.
Herrity also complained that the federal government keeps 15 percent of the funds approved for federal social service programs such as demonstration projects and emergency relief to areas affected by a massive influx of refugees.
"In the spirit of the new federalism, (the federal government) ought to send 100 percent of the money to the state and local governments because that's where the problems are," Herrity said. "What we need is more money and some changes in the regulations."