By Patricia Minichiello
@vtpresspass

State and Washington officials expect the release of approval sites for refugee resettlement around the country, including Rutland, by the end of this week.

Amila Merdzanovic, director of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, said Monday that a decision on the city’s application is expected by Friday.

“We’re still waiting to hear. We were told September, so it’s still September by the end of this week,” she said.

Stacie Blake, director of government and community relations at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Washington, said Tuesday that everyone is waiting for the release of approval sites. The list of 350 approval sites is expected by Friday.

“Some will be existing sites, some will be new sites and there will be over 350 sites across the country,” Blake said.

If approved, Rutland would be a new site for refugee resettlement and families could start arriving as early as December or January of 2017.

First however, Blake said not only does site approval need to happen, but Congress needs to pass a budget by Friday.

“Of course, all of us are waiting for Congress to pass a budget to fund the resettlement program and the other programs within the office of refugee resettlement,” she said.

Assuming site approval and budget approval happen by Friday, Blake said the next step is to open a Rutland office and begin hiring staff.

“And then begin their training process. … Once folks are fully trained and we’ve secured an office space, and storage space, then we will be ready to receive families,” she said.

Blake said they don’t anticipate families arriving before December or January of 2017.

When asked about possible delays due to community concerns, or concerns from elected officials, Blake said the issue of refugee resettlement is a federal matter.

“I trust that any new person who moves to Rutland would be welcome,” she said.

Patricia Minichiello is a freelance reporter and editor of vtpresspass.com. You can reach her at vtpresspass@gmail.com.