Governor urges lawmakers to support Matzie bill to aid Ukrainian refugees

Would authorize $2 million in funding

HARRISBURG, March 7 – Governor Tom Wolf today called on lawmakers to support legislation drafted by state Reps. Rob Matzie and Kevin Boyle that would invest $2 million to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in Pennsylvania.

Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, said the soon-to-be-introduced legislation would allow the commonwealth to fast-track aid to thousands needing it immediately.

“America defends freedom. We have always welcomed those fleeing danger and oppression,” Matzie said. “Pennsylvania has the second-largest population of people with Ukrainian ancestry in the U.S. My district alone has three communities – Ambridge, Baden and Harmony – in the top 20% of folks whose families originally came from Ukraine. We have several Ukrainian churches. This is not some crisis affecting strangers on the nightly news. These are our neighbors’ families. This is local. This is real. This is touching our communities.

“The $2 million will get immediate aid flowing to these displaced families. We will be able to help them with housing, food, and clothing, and work with relief organizations to set up longer-term support.”

Pennsylvania Democratic House Finance Committee Chair Kevin Boyle said, “Many thanks to my colleague Representative Matzie for helping put this legislation together; I’ll be advocating that it’s heard in committee, but it’s ultimately up to the majority at this point how quickly we can get the bill advanced. We know we must act fast, because this will only worsen until people all over the world step in and help the refugee crisis.”

The lawmakers noted that the $2 million amount matches a recent federal infusion of funds to support Afghan refugees. Pennsylvania has welcomed Syrian and Afghan refugees in the past, and those efforts have expanded local resettlement partners’ capacity to serve more refugees. Previous funds have been exhausted, however, and need to be replenished.