The City of Tulsa, Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity (TAEO), and local organizations have partnered to meet the transportation needs for Afghan refugees who need to get to and from their new jobs in Tulsa.
The Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity (MORE) has received a $150,000 grant from Open Society Foundations (OSF) to support social integration and economic mobility for Afghan arrivals.
“Thanks to the generosity of this Open Society Foundations 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. “Through our New Tulsans Initiative, 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.”
The OSF grant will fund the cost of driver’s education, contextualized English classes, and preparation and fees, including translation of materials for up to 50 individuals. In the long term, the grant would support Afghan refugees with the purchase of their own cars by offering financial counseling to help budget for payments and creating a revolving loan fund.
“Local government leaders are playing a critical role in welcoming Afghans and helping them to settle into new communities,” said Laleh Ispahani, Co-Director, Open Society-U.S. “We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in welcoming these newcomers. In making this grant and others like it we recognize that partnerships between local government and community groups are essential in building inclusive communities and contributing to a growing welcoming movement across the country.”
In addition, the Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity (TAEO) announced it will fund more than $10,000 worth of Tulsa Transit bus passes for Afghan refugees.
“We are happy to partner with the YWCA to provide this critical support for reliable transportation to our refugee community,” TAEO 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 31-day bus passes will be distributed to refugee families, who are currently receiving services through YWCA Tulsa, based on financial and personal needs.
The free transit passes will allow refugees to access community and health services, go to work on a bus line and purchase necessities for their families. Distribution will be prioritized by the following:
"We are so thankful for the City of Tulsa's commitment to supporting the Afghan families and ensuring they have the ability to travel to work, to English classes, and more as they work to build their lives here in our community,” YWCA CEO Julie Davis said.
This citywide collaboration could not be possible without Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma and B’Nai Emunah Synagogue, which have partnered in the Afghan refugee resettlement efforts in the Tulsa area.
“As we work to create a more inclusive city, we're grateful to the City of Tulsa for stepping in and coordinating resources and conversation about one of the most critical issues facing new arrivals,” B’Nai Emunah Synagogue Rabbi Dan Kaiman said. “On the road to self-sufficiency, achieving independent transportation expands and enhances the ability for refugees and immigrants to contribute to our city,”
Additional City resources for Afghan refugee resettlement can be found online.