‘Our state has always stepped up’: Gov. Cox announces Afghan Community Fund to help refugees

In this January 2021 file photo, Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks at the Utah State Capitol, Jan. 8, 2021, Salt Lake City, Utah | Associated Press file photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In a press release issued Tuesday, Gov. Spencer Cox, along with officials from Zions Bank, World Trade Center Utah, Utah’s refugee resettlement network and the Afghan community, announced the launch of the Afghan Community Fund. The fund will ensure Utah is prepared to welcome and support 765 new Afghan arrivals in the coming months.

File photo of Gov. Spencer Cox speaking during a news conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug. 31, 2021 | Photo by Rick Bowmer/Associated Press, St. George News

“So many generous and caring Utahns have expressed the desire to help, and our state has always stepped up during national emergencies,” Cox said in the news release. “This fund will help us provide critical assistance to our Afghan friends and neighbors who were forced to flee their country and start over.”

The Afghan Community Fund is a public-private partnership that will support community needs, medical, food, household and other basic necessities for arrivals where public funding is inadequate.

Following the #OneUtah approach, the governor’s Refugee Advisory Board—run by the state’s Refugee Services Office—created the fund to align the efforts of the two resettlement agencies, International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services, and other partners, such as the Utah Muslim Civic League. An estimated $1 million is needed to address resettlement agency, community and other needs not covered by federal dollars.

Zions Bank and the Semnani Family Foundation have each contributed $100,000 to the fund. The Sterling Family Foundation donated $75,000, bringing the total raised so far to $275,000 in addition to generous in-kind donations from Steve Price with Price Realty Group.

Utah expects to resettle 765 Afghan arrivals over the next several months, the release states. The majority of Afghans coming to Utah were granted humanitarian parole (temporary asylum due to their vulnerabilities) to enter the United States because of threats to their safety.

They are currently at several military bases receiving thorough medical and security screenings, preparing to be resettled. The United States Congress recently passed a continuing resolution that extends refugee benefits to humanitarian parolees, including food and housing assistance. These Afghans will be able to work in Utah.

More information about the Afghan Community Fund can be found online.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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