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Press Release

New IRC report: Financial inclusion critical for refugees, other new Americans

Report draws on experiences, survey data to offer best practices in financial counseling to refugees and other new Americans

Today, the International Rescue Committee launched a new report, funded by JPMorgan Chase, entitled “Financial Capability for New Americans: Lessons from Early Interventions with Refugees.” The event consisted of an an address from IRC economic empowerment experts on the key findings in the report followed by a panel of thought leaders in the field of financial inclusion and coaching.

Read the full report here.

The report analyzes data from more than 2,400 refugee households as well as learnings drawn from the IRC’s work in refugee resettlement and economic empowerment throughout 28 cities. This information was compiled in an effort to shed light on the financial dynamics of refugee households within their first years of entering the U.S. It examines how financial capability programming impacts refugee economic outcomes, and offer insights that encourage more effective and responsive approaches to building financial capability and economic independence for new Americans.

The first year in the U.S. is a critical window to positively impact the financial lives of new Americans, to avoid missteps and lay a solid foundation for financial independence.” said Ellen Beattie, Senior Director with IRC’s US Programs.

Refugee families undergo accelerated financial change and learning during their first years in the U.S., making this period ripe for financial capability interventions, according to the report. It states new American families that receive early financial capability services, the better the economic outcomes are for the household.

The report proposes six key recommendations to aid practitioners in helping new American families achieve and sustain self-sufficiency:

Intervene Early: Though it may be too early for a refugee to be interested in long term savings, their first few years is the right time to help navigate initial challenges and making ends meet.

Intervene Frequently: Service providers should not assume that refugees will be self-motivated in reaching out for financial education and coaching, they should explore multiple avenues for increasing the likelihood of refugee access to financial capability programming and coaching.

Explore Ways to Offer Integrated Financial Products: Whether through internal channels or by building partnerships with other financial institutions, helping refugees access financial products tied to their specific goals can accelerate progression towards that goal.

Pay Special Attention to the Needs of Women: Refugee women face unique challenges and barriers and programming needs to be designed and implemented with these things in mind.

Keep Goals Realistic: Service providers and refugee families need to set realistic goals for what can be achieved in the short, medium and long term.

Use Data: Service providers need to commit to collecting and tracking data over time about financial coaching participants to assess whether their implementation of these models, services and approaches is working within their local population.

Please email communications [at] rescue.org to arrange an interview with an IRC spokesperson.

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About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.