New HIAS Economic Advancement Fund Helps Refugees Start Businesses  

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — HIAS, the Jewish humanitarian organization that provides critical services to refugees, asylum seekers, and other forcibly displaced people around the world, has announced the launch of HIAS Economic Advancement Fund (EAF), a nonprofit organization and emerging Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). EAF provides refugees and other forcibly displaced entrepreneurs access to financial products and services that promote economic opportunity and financial well-being.

“Refugees start businesses at higher rates than non-refugee immigrants and the U.S.-born population, but they face significant challenges because of systemic barriers to accessing capital, among other factors,” said Phillip Bailey, the inaugural director of HIAS Economic Advancement Fund. “That’s where EAF comes in. By partnering with HIAS refugee resettlement network affiliates to support business development and expansion, we help refugees increase their income and improve their credit so they can provide for themselves and their families, work toward financial independence, and contribute to their local communities and the economy more broadly.”

“The launch of the Economic Advancement Fund represents a continuation of more than a century of HIAS history,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “In 1923, we started the HIAS Immigrant Bank to facilitate money transfers to and from newly arrived immigrants’ families abroad — a service not offered by most U.S. banks at the time. Now we’re expanding our support for entrepreneurial refugees, because we’ve seen again and again that when newcomers have the tools to leverage valuable skills from their home countries and achieve economic self-sufficiency, that’s not only good for their families and their neighborhoods, it’s good for America as a whole. It’s a fundamental truth we saw borne out again recently, with new data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirming that refugees continue to be a blessing to our economy, contributing far more to our tax base than they take in services.”

Initially founded by HIAS in 2022, the Economic Advancement Fund provides access to capital through affordable loans, coupled with business technical assistance and financial education. Its loan products are tailored for those who are low-income, have little or no credit history, and are unable to access credit from mainstream financial institutions.

EAF and its partners also provide technical assistance, including small business workshops and advisory services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate and responsive to the unique needs of each entrepreneur. By facilitating market opportunities for businesses to sell their goods and services, EAF helps entrepreneurs increase revenue, expand their customer base, and build business acumen.

Central to today’s launch are EAF’s longstanding partners from HIAS’ resettlement network: Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County in Michigan, Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services in Florida, and Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency in North Carolina. HIAS has been working with these organizations to support refugee entrepreneurs since 2018.

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