September 30, 2023

Washington, D.C. (October 5, 2010) – Last week, Congress failed to pass an emergency measure introduced by Senator Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) that would have extended Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for refugees who are elderly or have disabilities. As a result, several thousand refugees lost their benefits starting the first of this month, and thousands more will lose benefits in years to come. The extension would have extended much needed resources for this population for one year.

To qualify for SSI, recipients must be over the age of 65 or have disabilities, and have little or no income and few assets. In the Southeast Asian American community, many recipients are individuals who fought alongside U.S. servicemen and fled war and persecution in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Without SSI, which provides a bare minimum of resources, many refugees who are elderly or have disabilities will fall further into poverty.

“During this time of economic crisis, it is especially critical that resources for the most vulnerable populations are not taken away,” said Doua Thor, executive director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center. “SEARAC is committed to working with lawmakers to find alternative vehicles for the passage of the extension as well as developing a permanent solution to this issue.”

SEARAC is a national organization that advances the interests of Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans by empowering communities through advocacy, leadership development and capacity building to create a socially just and equitable society.