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U.S. to Pay Immigration Costs for 40,000 Soviet Jews Next Year

For the second consecutive fiscal year, the United States will allow 40,000 Soviet Jews to immigrate here as refugees in 1991.

But unlike the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, next year all 40,000 refugees will qualify for an array of federal assistance programs, including transportation loans, Medicaid and food stamps.

That will take some of the financial burden off the American Jewish community, which this year has had to pay all of the transportation and initial absorption costs for 8,000 of the Soviet Jewish refugees who arrived here.

Those expenses, which may total as much as $40 million for 1990, are being paid by Jewish federations across the country, which, in addition to their usual financial commitments, are trying to raise unprecedented sums of money for the United Jewish Appeal’s Operation Exodus campaign for Soviet Jewish resettlement in Israel.

The larger number of “funded” refugees was negotiated during a series of talks between Bush administration officials and representatives of American Jewish agencies involved in the domestic resettlement effort. The final decision was made this week by officials of the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget.

News of the 1991 refugee figures was reported here Wednesday by Mark Talisman, director of the Washington Action Office of the Council of Jewish Federations. The council, which represents more than 200 community federations in North America, was holding its quarterly meetings at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel here.

CJF officials pointed out that the administration’s proposed refugee ceiling for 1991 must still be approved by Congress. The House of Representatives has already passed a bill allocating funding for 50,000 Soviet refugees, 40,000 of whom are expected to be Jews. The Senate is due to consider the appropriations bill next week.

And though safe passage of the appropriations bill is expected, the outcome of current negotiations on the federal budget may impact the amount of money allocated to the refugee program and the number of Soviets the U.S. government can afford to sponsor as refugees.

If Congress is not able to reconcile the federal budget by Sept. 30, then across-the-board cuts mandated by the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act will kick in That could mean a 30 percent cut in funding for the federal refugee program.

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