Fact Sheet Access to Safety Net Programs for North Carolina’s Congolese Immigrant Families
Perspectives from Focus Group Participants
Diana Guelespe, Hamutal Bernstein, Jennifer M. Haley, Sofia Hinojosa, Luis H. Gallardo, Hannah Gill, Krista Perreira
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As part of a study on North Carolina immigrant families’ access to safety net programs, we led focus groups with members of immigrant families to understand their experiences applying for and accessing programs.

Over recent decades, North Carolina’s diverse immigrant population has grown, with immigrant families living in rural and urban communities across the state. This includes immigrant and refugee families from a diverse range of countries speaking many different languages. Unlike other immigrants, all refugees are eligible for federal safety net programs when they arrive in the US and receive targeted assistance from refugee resettlement providers to enroll. However, assistance may be less widely available over time as refugees navigate processes to retain or renew benefits.

In this fact sheet, we present findings from a focus group with members of Swahili-speaking Congolese refugee families in North Carolina. In the focus group, we heard that language access was their main barrier to accessing safety net programs. They also highlighted challenges providing documentation proving income, residence, and requirements for the application process. Their recommendations to health and human services agencies for reducing these barriers include issuing written program communications in English and Swahili, hiring Swahili speakers and interpreters in agency offices, and allowing community-based organization staff to advocate on applicants’ behalf.

Research Areas Immigration Social safety net
Tags Immigrant access to the safety net Immigrant children, families, and communities Immigrant-serving organizations Mixed-status immigrant families Federal, state, and local immigration and integration policy Welfare and safety net programs Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program  Health equity Language access Refugees and global migration Racial and ethnic disparities Families with low incomes Health insurance
Policy Centers Health Policy Center Income and Benefits Policy Center
States North Carolina
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