In honor of Amina Ahmed and Cal Uomoto, whose fierce advocacy and commitment to immigrants & refugees continue to inspire our work.
"The strength of the RPC has been the collective and collaborative efforts of our diverse membership." ~Vicki Asakura, member
The Tri-County Refugee Planning Committee (RPC) began in 1983 as the King County Refugee Planning Committee with the purpose of providing local planning for HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement Targeted Assistance funds. Targeted Assistance funds went to counties impacted by refugee resettlement. Federal guidelines at the time required funds be administered locally by County or its designee, which was the Seattle King County Private Industry Council (PIC). Targeted Assistance guidelines prescribed VOLAG, MAA, service provider, private sector, and government representation. The RPC also had a 51% refugee membership requirement.
The RPC role was to plan and develop the annual service delivery plan with an overview of the refugee community, labor market trends, service gaps, emerging issues, and recommendations for the allocation of resources, outcomes, and unit costs. Contracts were performance-based and later plans included both program and policy recommendations. In the early years, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) required that 10% of program funds be set aside specifically for refugee led ethnic Mutual Assistance Associations (MAA). The State Refugee Coordinator at the time required MAA funds go to Coalitions of MAA which led to the formation of Southeast Asian Refugee Federation, now known as Refugee Federation Service Center, and soon after a multiethnic women’s group, Southeast Asian Women’s Alliance, now known as Refugee Women’s Alliance. The RPC later recommended other strategies such as MAA mini grants for new and emerging ethnic based organizations, creation of refugee multi service centers offering an array of services including Try Out employment and skills brush up, and bilingual aides for ESL classrooms. Targeted assistance also funded customized skills training projects with several local businesses.
By the 1990’s, Targeted Assistance and Refugee Social Service funding were merged with a single planning process with the King County Refugee Planning Committee continuing in its planning and advocacy role with the PIC, now known as the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County (WDC) and the Division of Refugee Assistance, now the Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance (ORIA) comanaging/administering the refugee program in King County. The RPC was instrumental in the planning and implementation of the Refugee Community Building Conference, the first of several held in 1999. Shortly thereafter, the RPC became the Tri-County Refugee Planning Committee with King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. With the expansion, we benefited from involvement and support from Refugee Immigrant Services Northwest and Tacoma Community House.
During the 2008 recession, the RPC led a successful advocacy effort resulting in the partial restoration (50%) of state funding for LEP Pathway and naturalization services when both programs had been slated for total elimination mid-year and in the following year as budget saving measures. Subsequent efforts included the implementation of several short term LEP Enhancement projects with unspent TANF resources and more recently supplemental Naturalization funds helping to bring funding closer to pre-recession levels.
The Tri-County RPC has been a strong advocate for data and equity in programming and resource allocations. We recently voiced concerns regarding the need for improvements to make the State UI system more accessible for limited English speakers and worked with WA State Department of Licensing to address service inconsistencies among DOL offices including specific issues facing new refugee arrivals at one specific DOL office. The strength of the RPC has been the collective and collaborative efforts of our diverse membership.