A long-time program helping government-assisted refugees settle in Manitoba has lost federal funding, and will cease taking new clients next year.

Rita Chahal is the executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, known as Welcome Place. She said she learned about the cuts a week ago Friday.

It means the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), a program designed to help government-assisted refugees transition in the first six weeks of their arrival, will end in March 2020.

Chahal said the RAP program has been in existence in Manitoba for 40 years.

“That’s why it’s such a shock,” said Chahal.

The program gives newcomers temporary shelter and helps them until they transition into more permanent housing in the community.

“The first six weeks are very crucial,” said Chahal.

She said the money makes up about one one-third of the organization’s budget, and she doesn’t know why Ottawa didn’t renew their funding.

She expects the changes will free up housing, used by families who are part of the RAP program. The facility, located in downtown Winnipeg has a total of 30 housing units.

“I don’t know what we are going to do with those units. I’m hoping it can help with the housing shortage in the city, but the board has to decide what it’s going to do,” said Chahal.

A new reality: Welcome Place to ‘adjust’ staffing

Chahal said Welcome Place has 50 full-time employees.

“Loss of funding is always something no one wants to hear, but it’s a new reality that our organization has to deal with,” she said.

Chahal couldn’t say for certain how many positions may get cut moving forward.

“It does mean that we will have to adjust our staffing compliment. It will be challenging, but we will get through it,” she said.

Chahal said the current clients who still need services will get them.

She said one of their settlement proposals was still accepted and Welcome Place will continue to support newcomers.

Chahal said she looks forward to giving the best settlement services possible to its current and potential clients.

In recent years, Welcome Place has helped approximately 200 refugees a year. During the influx of Syrian refugees in 2015-2016, it helped close to 1,000 refugees.