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A Look at the Impact of Refugee Placements on Virginia's Economy

The number of refugee placements has declined dramatically since President Trump took office. And, that has an impact on economies across Virginia.

From 2008 to 2016, the number of new refugee placements in Virginia was somewhere between 1,200 to 1,600 a year. But then last year, as a result of a new federal policy limiting refugee placements, that was slashed in half. This year, the number of new refugee placements is on track to be less than 300.

That’s according to Chad Stewart at the Commonwealth Institute who says refugees play an important role in the economy.

“On average, they pay far more taxes over a 20 year period than they receive back in benefits. This also means that if we continue to see the number of refugees we place in Virginia decline, we can expect to see an adverse impact on our state revenues over time.”

The highest concentration of refugees in Virginia is Harrisonburg, where Frank Tamberrino at the local chamber of commerce says that’s partly because of all the academic institutions and religious organizations there. Plus…

“This also is an area that is designated as a refugee resettlement area, so we’ve got an organization here the Church World Service that handles a lot of refugee resettlements.”

This week, a new study from the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Tent Foundation concluded that refugees have greater retention rates in hard-to-staff jobs, things like meat packing and hotel accommodations. As a result, they save employers on retraining. But those benefits are slipping away as the number of refugee placements continues to draw down.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.