Fact Check-Refugee resettlement and social security benefits meme is misleading

Claims on social media that refugees entering the United States receive $2,125 per month while social security recipients only receive an average monthly payment of $1,400 are inaccurate.

An example of the claim posted to Instagram is visible here .

The post shares an undated screenshot of a tweet by conservative commentator Charlie Kirk. It reads, “The government pays out “$2,125/month in refugee benefits to refugees resettled in the United States,” while Social Security recipients “who have paid into the system their whole lives receive $1,400/month on average.”

This is misleading as Social Security income in the United States varies from person to person. Retirement Living reports (here) that "your Social Security benefit payment is based on a sliding scale that accounts for your income, how many years you worked" and when a person begins collecting benefit payments.

More information about social security income is available on the Social Security Administration's website (here). A fact sheet on the average amount of retirement pay ($1,555) for social security benefits for 2021 is visible here .

The National Immigration Forum, an immigration advocacy group (here), said refugees, are defined as "persons outside the country of his or her nationality, who are unable or unwilling to return to their countries due to persecution or fear of persecution based on various factors such as race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.”

The United States provides humanitarian entry into the country for refugees and asylum seekers and is made possible by the Refugee Act of 1980 (here). Based on a factsheet seen here by the Immigration Forum, funding for refugee resettlement is made possible by a partnership of the Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The funds are loaned to the refugee to cover travel expenses. The State Department’s Reception and Placement (R&P) program stipulates that repayment must be made after arrival.

"The R&P program then supplies resettlement agencies a one-time sum per refugee to finance their first 30-90 days in the U.S. That money goes mostly towards rent, furnishings, food, and clothing, as well as costs of the agency staff case management and other integration services." (here)

The details of the program were confirmed to Reuters by a spokesperson from the U.S. State Department press office. The program is managed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), the Reception & Placement (R&P) Program, the representative said. The funding only provides initial support for 30 to 90 days to help refugees begin their new lives in the United States.

A one-time per capita amount of $2,275 is provided to the resettlement agencies, of which about $1,225 is available for agencies to use to fund critical direct assistance needs such as housing and necessities, including food, clothing, and furnishings.

The State Department official told Reuters the only direct assistance paid to a refugee is the one-time $1,225 payment and is only provided directly to refugees in the rare event that they have established family or friend relationships who are able to meet their basic needs such as housing.

The State Department spokesperson said that many partnerships work through state and non-governmental organizations to “provide longer-term cash and medical assistance.”

Support is also available in English language and employment benefits, food assistance, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and SSI. More on resettlement assistance is reviewable on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services site seen here .


Missing Context. Based on information from U.S. government officials, refugee resettlement funds are not paid monthly and do not exceed the average social security benefits paid to American retirees.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .