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$150k grant, other funding to help Afghan refugees in Tulsa with transportation

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Afghan refugees who are starting new lives in Tulsa will soon have more options for getting around.

Officials announced recently that some of the short- and longer-term transportation needs of refugees will be addressed through a $150,000 grant from Open Society Foundations.

“Thanks to the generosity of this grant, we will be addressing transportation barriers for our new Afghan neighbors to obtain driver’s licenses and increase access to transportation options such as carpools or cars that will enable them to get to their new jobs,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said.

The grant, administered by the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity, will fund the costs of driver’s education, contextualized English classes, and preparation and fees, including the translation of materials, for up to 50 individuals.

In the long term, the grant will support refugees with the purchase of their own cars by offering financial counseling to help budget for payments and creating a revolving loan fund.

More than 850 refugees have arrived in Tulsa since September, part of a massive nationwide effort to resettle the tens of thousands evacuated from Afghanistan with the U.S. withdrawal.

Oklahoma overall received the third-highest number of refugees among the states.

Additional short-term transportation aid for Tulsa’s refugees was announced recently in the form of bus passes.

The Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity said it will fund more than $10,000 worth of Tulsa Transit passes.

The 31-day bus passes will be distributed to refugee families currently receiving services through YWCA Tulsa, based on financial and personal need.

The free passes will allow refugees to access community and health services, go to work and purchase necessities for their families, officials said.

“We are happy to partner with the YWCA to provide this critical support for reliable transportation to our refugee community,” Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity Executive Director Kian Kamas said.

“TAEO is committed to increasing economic opportunity for all residents, and ensuring our newest Tulsans have the ability to access critical goods and services and employment opportunities is in direct alignment with our mission.”

The mayor said the transportation support is another example of the citywide collaboration that has formed to help refugees, led by resettlement agencies at Catholic Charities and Congregation B’nai Emunah.

“The city of Tulsa strives to be a welcoming and inclusive city for all residents and our immigrant communities, and we couldn’t do it without the help of local partnerships,” Bynum said.

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