ACA (ObamaCare): More Guidance and Resources

AfACA Actter Higher’s initial post acknowledging the stress we’re all feeling around ACA, we found out more.  Thanks to Tina Fang, formerly with RHTAC, for sharing her wealth of knowledge about ACA.

Additional Resources

These new finds, and the resources provided in a previous post, would also be great to pass along to employers.  They could then provide them to all of their employees – including the clients you’ve placed in their job openings.  You could send a quick email to your key employer contacts with links from Higher’s ACA posts.  Great customer service for both of your key customers – clients and employers.

  • ORR has a whole office dedicated to Refugee Health.  It’s a great resource.  They will very soon announce the release of an introductory video in six refugee languages that explains basics about health insurance and ACA.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation continues to play a leadership role in providing information and analysis related to ACA.  Among other resources, they offer an interactive map with updates from all 50 States and a great animated overview of ACA targeting consumers in English and Spanish.

Where to Start?

States decide whether or not to expand Medicaid as part of expanded coverage access.  They also decide how healthcare coverage will be provided in their State.  They can develop a State market place, work jointly with the national market place or rely solely on the national option.  No matter how those two components take shape, each State will be required to have at least 2 designated “navigator” organizations to assist with enrollment.  It will look different in every State, as will the funding source for that resource.

Answering these three questions for your State is a good place to start exploring how you will help refugees navigate all of the changes and options:


10 Job Possibilites for Low Skilled Clients

It’s always a struggle to help clients with little obvious marketable experience and very low English language skills find their first job.  Volunteering, training or part-time work can be helpful, but the majority of these clients also comeWant Ads from the most vulnerablefamilies, so income without delay is critical.  Here are 10 potential jobs that have worked for others in the network.  If you don’t have employer contacts in these sectors, start building relationships now.

  1. Recycling – sorting single streams, electronic component break-down or simple processing into reusable materials could be contractor or government jobs.   
  2. Road- or Curb- side Trash Pick-up – it’s hot work, but road crews often leave from central locations and can be full time seasonal work for people who don’t want to work indoors
  3. Goodwill Sheltered Employment – Opportunities could include retail stores, donation sorting and vocational training.  Lack of English is often a qualifying barrier.
  4. Food Processing – think beyond meat packing to the booming locavore, organic and artisanal sectors, as well as frozen food.  Look at grocery store suppliers, too.
  5. Farming/gardening/landscaping – look into arboretums, urban farms, corporate campuses, apartment complexes, nurseries, garden stores and lawn care services
  6. General labor with a small contractor – larger companies may have inflexible safety and security parameters, but small contractors or independent professionals may be willing to give clients a chance.
  7. Vehicle detailing – car washes, rental car agencies, other businesses with commercial fleets – like Greyhound or school districts and contract detailing services.
  8. Home Healthcare for Relatives – in some cases, SSDI benefits can include payment for in-home care provided by a family member. Find out more from resettlement colleagues or other social work professionals.
  9. Housekeeping – many clients are afraid of this type of work, but hotels are key employers in many places. Nursing homes, office cleaning contractors or anywhere with public space could also be options for this type of work.
  10. Dishwasher Hotels, convention service contractors, chain restaurants and nursing homes can all be great possibilities.  Some fast food chains have separate positions with no customer contact, which can also be good options.

Advice from a Career in Workforce Development

Harry Crawford retires as Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin today.  In his honor, we are reposting this summary of two pieces of his advice.  Harry Crawford

” I wanted to introduce you to Harry Crawford.  he’s the Employment Program Manager at Caritas of Austin – my boss.  He has more than 25 years of experience in workforce development. Lots of times in meetings with outside agencies, I  have to laugh because everyone ends up taking notes while Harry explains something we all need to understand.  Two pieces of his wisdom are counter-intuitive, but they always guide us through difficult aspects of working with clients, so I wanted to share them with you.

Some Clients Have to Hit the Wall: Sometimes, no mater what you do, clients have a hard time reconciling themselves to taking the first available, entry level job.  Sometimes we call it a survival or starter job.  When we’re feeling stress and worry about their family’s financial stability, Harry reminds us that some clients have to hit the wall before they can internalize the need to start in a job that they may feel is beneath them.  When they run out of options and money, they are forced to accept the realities of US work culture and that’s the best thing for them in the long term.

Finding a Job is a Numbers Game: We emphasize the importance of taking responsibility for their own success from our initial client intakes throughout all of our workshops and one-on-one coaching.  We try not to put more effort into a job search than the clients are giving themselves.  A lot of them get really frustrated by applying for lots of jobs and never even getting a response.  It builds their skills and, eventually, if they apply enough places, someone will call and they’ll find a job. ”


Stressed about ObamaCare (ACA)?

Piggy bank, dollar and stethoscopeWe’ve heard a lot of you express anxiety about what the Affordable Coverage Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, will mean for refugees and how to adjust the information and services you offer accordingly.

Addressing family wellness is a huge part of what case managers do for our clients.  Employment professionals need to be aware of those issues and how to address them as barriers to employment.  Most clients no longer receive intensive post-arrival case management by the time their eight month Medicaid eligibility expires and they are eligible for employer-provided health insurance benefits.

No matter how much you explain and help clients navigate our complex system, it remains bewildering.  Even if ACA offers improved coverage for our clients, learning about it and then helping refugees understand and access those benefits seems overwhelming.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and technical assistance provider RefugeeHealth Technical Assistance Center (RHTAC) have already thought about that.  Resources – including translated materials in several refugee languages – are already available to help you understand and navigate the new system, with more to come.  These great resources will help ease the stress now. We’ll point you to additional resources and provide more information as it becomes available.

Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) provides an overview of ACA, what it means for refugees and links to other related sites.  They also provide a downloadable Fact Sheet that will be useful when advocating for healthcare access rights (i.e. interpretation) with medical service providers or other agencies.

RefugeeHealth Technical Assistance Center (RHTAC) provides a straightforward explanation of ACA and its implications for refugee health care access.  At this site, you can also find downloadable Fact Sheets translated into Arabic, Burmese and Nepali.

Health Insurance Marketplace , the official government site to access ACA benefits, packs alot of information into their site.  The page I found most helpful offers resources in several languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese and Russian. A brief downloadable statement of the right to get information about ACA in your native language includes the 1-800 number to call for language access.  The statement is translated into several languages, including Amharic, Arabic, French, Hindi and Persian.

Employer Outreach Brochures 101

Brochure PhotoNo matter how your agency is structured or how you handle job development, everyone needs an effective marketing brochure.  A leave-behind that summarized your services and reaches out to potential employers is a basic that can be intimidating to develop.  Here are ideas, steps and examples to make it not so scary.

What you put together doesn’t have to be produced by an expensive consultant.  (Huh, as if, right?)   In fact, some  non-profit Directors of Communication or Development caution that something too glossy can make it look like you don’t need the help or that you might be wasting resources.  Noone wants to leave that impression, which is rarely true in our field, anyway.

Who Should Develop Your Marketing Piece? 

If you’re lucky enough to have access to your development or communications team, they could be very helpful.  You might be able to tap into intern or volunteer talent.  There’s no reason why you can’t do it yourself.  You could pass a draft around the office for feedback.  If you have a good relationship with an employer, you could ask them to review a final draft, as well.

What Information Should You Include?

Higher has recently collected three good examples that are available for you to download on our website.   They come from different sources and were intended for use by one or more agencies.  All of them are effective examples with lots of good ideas you can use as models for your own brochure.  Thanks to Volag USCRI, Lutheran Services Carolinas and Caritas of Austin, TX for letting us share their great examples.

Don’t worry or deliberate too much. Just get started.   Identify the information you want to include.  Look for pictures and graphics you can use.  Work with the data you have available already.  It’s easier than you think.  Even if you already have a brochure, you could improve or update it with fresh photos, more recent data or a new success story.

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Use business vs nonprofit language:  Be succinct.  Direct.  Brief.  Speak their language.
  • What’s in it for them?:  That’s the lead in – not the plight of refugees or the services we’re so passionate about.  Think Free, Pre-screened, work authorized, job retention, support, easy, interpretation.
  • Use numbers and statistics:  Provide concrete and quantifiable information you have or can pull together from existing donor reports or performance data.  Consider job retention rate.  Pie chart of industries where refugees area already working.  Number of employees placed or number of employers who hired them.
  • “Join the Club”:   No risk in jumping on the band wagon.  Give them a list of area employers who already hire.  Don’t leave out national names or the competition in an industry you want to target.  Include a tesimonial quote from a supportive employer, preferably someone influential and clearly in a leadership role.
  • Give it visual punch:  Graphics.  White space.  Pictures of refugees at work.  A success story from a refugee who has moved up, won an award or is also an employer.
  • Remember the 5 second rule:  Hiring managers/employers are busy.  They make a decision to consider your pitch in just five seconds.  If they can’t immediately see what you’re asking and why they should listen, they won’t.  Wordy, cumbersome brochures may just go into the circular file.
  • Don’t forget to provide contact information:  Be sure they can find you.  Staple a business card.  Place contact info prominently.  Consider creating a dedicated email address that won’t be affected by staff turnover.
  • Spread it around:  Leave it everywhere you go.  Put it on coffee shop bulletin boards.  Do an electronic version so you can attach it to emails.  Load it on your website.  Always have some with you.

Friday Feature: The Refugee Experience in YA and Children’s Literature

Chachaji's Cup Refugee Children's LiteratureThere has been an explosion of young adult (YA) fiction in recent years, much of it also popular with adult readers.  A friend of mine who is a children’s librarian has given me some great childrens and YA books over the years.  When I asked her for ideas for a Friday Feature, Lucinda the librarian shot back a quick email response with this great list of picture and chapter books about the refugee experience through the eyes of young refugees published by The University of Arizona College of Education.

I like that many of the selections talk about refugees who resettled in other countries, as well as the US.  The one in the picture, Chachaji’s Cup,  features refugees from the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.  Some of them focus on life in refugee camps or on the run.  Others show life for refugees in Australia and the UK.  They definitely include all  of the diverse experiences and cultures we work with on a daily basis.

Employment professionals don’t often have much direct interaction with children since they aren’t entering the workforce.  But these books address all kinds of issues we do encounter every day – generation gaps, memories of home, overcoming trauma, feeling isolated.  We all see how refugee children become the bridge for their families to begin to engage in school and other community resources.  Maybe citizen children can also become the conduits for deepening community awareness among the adults in their lives?  Employers, co-workers or other community allies for our employment work are also parents.


(Every Friday we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

5 Places to Find Job Leads

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes you just run out of ideas or feel like all of your new employer prospects are dead.  Here are five accessible places to find fresh leads

1.  Mine monthly reports for employers who have already hired a refugee.  These will be soft targets likely already somewhat familiar with our client population and perhaps curious about their country of origin and journey to the US.  If the employee still works there and is doing well, it could be an even stronger lead.  You can provide more information, outline your employment services and explore ways to leverage that first success into additional opportunities.

2.  Ask existing Employers to recommend and refer. Think about similar businesses or others in their supply chain.  For example, a hotel will have contacts with other properties or with a linen service.  A construction firm might work with a single stream recycler or industrial cleaning contractor.  A grocery store might refer you to wholesalers or small local food production operations.

3.  Don’t forget about the power of your own dollars and contacts.  My friends make fun of me when I ask about jobs on my own time – even doing personal errands or on evenings out with friends.  But it works.  My dry cleaner hired a client in their processing facility and I found a great lead from the emergency repair man called when a broken water main flooded a friend’s backyard cookout.

4.  Think about Craigslist and other job boards for more than current openings.  When you see openings that might be a good fit for your clients, respond with a quick marketing pitch and attach an electronic copy of your employment services brochure.  It’s quick and easy and you never know who might respond.  If you can identify the company by name, don’t be afraid to call them up to offer a qualified, pre-screened candidate if you have one – or request a meeting to introduce yourself.  They’ll be more motivated to hear how you can help when they’re swamped with hundreds of unqualified job board applicants.

5.  Follow business news and industry publications for leads and trends.  Many cities have a Business Journal that publishes an annual Book of Lists including top employers in a number of different categories.  Your agency’s development office probably has a copy they’ll share.  News about promotions and industry leaders can give you the name of a hiring authority or let you know that someone who already knows about you has moved to a different company that should also hire your clients.  Announcements of new construction can tip you off to a major new employer in advance so you have time to develop the right connections and help them get started.


How and Why to Develop an Elevator Pitch

Coelevator up buttonmmunicating with employers is critical to what we do and it’s not easy to get it right.  We all believe in what we do and want to convey that passion as a way to “sell” our clients.  There’s nothing better than a successful placement to ramp up an employer relationship.

But, establishing initial interest from a new employer requires that you speak THEIR language.  Tell them what’s in it for their bottom line.  You can tug their heartstrings later and engage them in your mission AFTER they agree to consider hiring a refugee.

One of Higher’s first E-learning trainings will focus on communicating with employers.  Meanwhile, everyone should develop an elevator pitch – a concise, carefully planned, and well-practiced description of your service to employers that your mother should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator. This isn’t a full-on sales pitch, but rather an initial hook to start the conversation.

Here are the six steps outlined in a great article about how to develop your own elevator pitch that should last less than 60 seconds.

  1. Identify your goal
  2. Explain what you do
  3. Communicate your unique value
  4. Engage with a question
  5. Put it all together
  6. Practice

Here’s the pitch I used as Job Developer at Caritas of Austin:

Caritas is the largest non-profit social service agency in Travis County.  We help pre-screened, work-authorized candidates find jobs at no cost to employers. (Then, I’d follow with whatever question got me where I wanted to go next.)  I saw you have a job opening.  May I send you qualified candidates? Or, Could I find out more about your hiring process and how we can help you?

When you have your elevator pitch ready, please share.  I’ll be working on mine to describe Higher’s work.  Stay tuned.

How to Use Video for Interview Practice

Fancy Camera graphic for video mock interviewDon’t let fancy, expensive technology  scare you off.  You can use your smart  phone or desk top camera or your daughter’s pink princess flip cam to record  questions for a simple mock interview.  The How-to is outlined in this great piece from The Guardian Online.

Pre-recording interview questions simulates the feeling of responding in real time, which can help client practice feel more real.  We repeat interview questions multiple times for every client.  Using this approach can save time and help you be more than one place at once.  I can think of several ways to use this approach to help refugee clients:

  • I’m often surprised at how soon many clients are able to get a smart phone. You could record a few questions onto their phone and show them how to play them back for practice at home. They might even be able to record their final responses and bring them back in to your next appointment so you could provide feedback.


  • Volunteers could use prerecorded questions from you (loaded on to a USB memory stick) to help client practice exactly the questions you want them to work on together.


  • You could use this approach in Job Readiness classes using someone other than the instructor as the “interviewer”. This could also help clients practice comprehension with multiple speakers of English.

How to Use FREE Online Training and Education Resources

ToMortar Boardday, I found a great list of 20 free on-line educational resources through Higher’s FlipBoard magazine that includes some I’ve heard of and others that are new to me.   I wish I had time to investigate each one to evaluate the quality – which varies widely in on-line education and training offerings.  I can still think of several ways we could use these in our work with clients.

Addressing Language Skills:  If a client has already studies a subject in their native language, a basic course could help them learn vocabulary and terminology in English or help them understand what emphasis or application might be different in the US context.  At least one of the sites ( offers courses in Arabic language.  The MIT site offers courses translated into Spanish, Persian and several other languages.  There are likely other non-English language resources available from among the list.

Helping Clients Learn Basic (and more Advanced) Workplace Skills:  A couple of the sites offer courses on basic workplace skills and topics like project management, how to find a mentor, health and safety requirements and an overview of the manufacturing process.  These are likely not covered in job readiness class, but many clients could benefit from learning more about them.

Access basic US-style academic courses:  It can be frustrating for clients who yearn to attend college or University, but aren’t quite ready.  Many times, clients sign-up for on-line degrees and don’t understand the financial and time commitment or what it takes to succeed in on-line learning.  Helping clients identify relevant courses could satisfy their desire to learn while working full-time and help them understand the skills they need to succeed in any academic environment.  Some of the sites include standardized test preparation materials, as well.

Figuring out Technical Career Paths:  So many clients say they “know about computers”, but don’t know how those skills are segmented and applied in the job market.  Often, I struggled to figure out career paths and industry leads for technical skills that were completely unfamiliar to me.  With a little research, it seems like you could improve your understanding of these sectors and identify resources for clients to do so.

It would be great to hear from you about which sites you found useful and how you used them.  We’re all busy, but maybe if you can provide the list to clients, they can tell you what was useful for them.

And, stay tuned to begin using Higher’s new on-line training courses in the next month or so.  Our initial topics include  How to Communicate with Employers (for employment professionals) and Workplace Culture (for clients).  If you want to get involved in field testing to be among the first to use this great new resource designed just for us, get in touch at