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King County councilmember proposes program to aid transition of Afghan interpreters who served the U.S. overseas

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King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn on Thursday introduced legislation that would establish a fellowship program to provide job training and learning opportunities for Afghan interpreters and advisors who served the United States during the War in Afghanistan and are now living in King County.

“As we welcome our Afghan allies into our community, King County can be a leader in providing opportunity to people who risked so much on behalf of our country, served alongside our soldiers, and are now making their home in a foreign land,” Dunn said. “This fellowship would offer marketable job skills and career training to our Afghan friends, helping them establish a new livelihood as they start their new life here in King County.”

If passed by the Council, the pilot program will open two fellowship positions with the King County government for an Afghan interpreter or translator who served with United States military personnel between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2023 for at least one year. Each fellow will have the opportunity to serve a paid six-month to one-year term that not only provides new job experience at a variety of levels within the County’s government, but also provides optional learning immersion experiences. The pilot program would run until December 31, 2024.

Based on recent reports, King County is slated to initially receive 1,280 Afghan refugees in the coming weeks—a significant majority of the 1,600 being initially resettled in Washington state. The three cities that will be receiving refugees in King County are: Kent (600 refugees), Greater Seattle (575 refugees), and Auburn (105 refugees).

This legislation was closely modeled after the Vets 4 Hire program in King County, which was formed in 2015 through the County’s Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy. Since the program’s inception, it has allowed 89 veterans to work in 12 different departments throughout the County while providing access to mentors, career coaching, continued learning opportunities, and fellow veteran support.

This program continues to be an integral step for the veterans who participate in it to transition from military service back to civilian life, as outlined in the 2018 VSHSL report.

The proposal will be referred to the committee in the coming weeks.

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Cameron Sheppard

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Cameron Sheppard

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