Ellison and Emmer Working Together To Get Somali-American Remittances Flowing Again
Washington D.C. – Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. Tom Emmer are teaming up to bring back Somali-American remittances with a new pilot program.
Scott Paul, a senior humanitarian policy advisor for Oxfam, recently tweeted his thanks to Ellison and Emmer for working on the project. Oxfam is a development organization that focuses on the “injustice of poverty.”
— Scott Paul (@ScottTPaul) December 16, 2016
Remittances, or money transfers, allows Somali-Americans to funnel money earned here in the U.S. back to their family in their home country. Remittances are considered by many to be the lifeblood of Somalia, with the World Bank estimating up to $1.4 billion being transferred annually. This accounts for up to 23% of their GDP, and is more than the U.S. government gives to the country in foreign aid.
In recent years, banks all over the U.S. have been closing their Somali money transfer accounts. They no longer wish to take part in the transaction because of regulations put in place by the Obama administration that would hold the banks responsible if the money fell into the hands of extremists.
One of the last banks to close its doors to Somali remittances was Merchants Bank of California. They stopped facilitating the transfer of money in February 2015. Merchants Bank handled as much as 80% of all remittances going to Somalia. This left a gaping hole in the finances of those in Somalia that depended on the American money.
Rep. Ellison has long been a proponent of Somali-American remittances. Following the fall-out of Merchants Bank, Ellison wrote an op-ed in the New York Times which he went through all the reasons why he thinks it is a necessary function of U.S. banks. Rep. Ellison has found a somewhat unlikely supporter in Rep. Emmer. Together they co-chair the Congressional Somali Caucus where a key issue is keeping remittances flowing between the U.S. and Somalia.
In February of 2016, Somalia introduced a new law that would help prevent remittances from falling into the hands of terrorists. This anti-money laundering law was passed in hopes of gaining the trust of U.S. banks so that money transfers between the two countries could begin again.
Ellison and Emmer along with a handful of other Democrats sent a letter to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud congratulating him on the new law, and indicated they would continue to fight for remittances.
The Somali-American remittances pilot program that Ellison and Emmer have reportedly been working on would be another step towards getting remittances flowing again. Alpha News reached out to both Rep. Ellison and Rep. Emmer and neither are willing to comment on the program right now.
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