FARGO — Gov. Doug Burgum announced Monday, Jan. 25, that the North Dakota Department of Human Services will temporarily take over the state's federally funded refugee resettlement program after Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota said it plans to close due to financial troubles.
While the state would prefer to have a third party administer the program, the alternative of letting the federal government resettle refugees in North Dakota would bring "far less input or control," Burgum said in a statement.
"The Department of Human Services is prepared to administer the program to ensure that refugee resettlement in North Dakota continues in a thoughtful, orderly and responsible manner at no additional cost to North Dakota taxpayers," Burgum said.
Under current law, the Department of Human Services is responsible for refugee services, and until 2010 the department employed a full-time refugee coordinator, acting as a pass-through for federal funding.
In July 2010, the department transitioned refugee resettlement to LSS. Now, the resettlement program will report to Chris Jones, the Department of Human Services executive director.
Aside from having the Department of Human Services administer the program, the state's options for a long-term solution are finding another nonprofit organization to manage refugee resettlement or declining to participate in administering the program, according to a news release from the governor's office.
North Dakota resettled 124 refugees in 2019 and 44 refugees in 2020, according to the governor's office.
Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota announced Jan. 15 that it was closing the 102-year-old agency because its housing department caused a heavy drain on its financial resources.