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A family boards a bus at the airport that will take them to a refugee processing center after being evacuated from Kabul. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Americans wanting to help vulnerable Afghan refugees now have a new way to get involved through a new U.S. private refugee sponsorship program announced Monday.

  • Groups of at least five adults can apply, complete background checks and start fundraising the $2,275 per refugee required.

Why it matters: It’s a big shift in the U.S. refugee process, which has long relied on nonprofits.

  • There are roughly 55,000 Afghans waiting on military sites to be resettled into new homes, and nonprofit refugee agencies have struggled to quickly find housing, staffing and jobs for them.
  • Since Aug. 17, refugee agencies had resettled 5,800 Afghans, an administration official told Axios last week. 55,000 were still on military sites.

Between the lines: "This program showcases the powerful role that individuals can play in coming together to welcome and integrate Afghans into American society, reflecting our spirit of goodwill and generosity," the State Department release said.

  • The administration was expected to unveil a private sponsorship program in 2022, but some advocates had hoped they would move quicker to respond to the needs of Afghan refugees in the U.S.

How it works: State is partnering with Community Sponsorship Hub for the program, and applications are submitted through the site Sponsor Circles.

  • Once groups are certified, they can help welcome refugees being resettled in their community, including helping to find housing, providing basic necessities and helping complete paperwork.

The big picture: Other nations, including Canada, have already established popular private sponsorship programs praised by refugee advocates.

  • Canada set a goal of 22,500 refugees to be resettled through private sponsorship in 2021 — 1.8 times as many as the target for government-assisted refugees.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

Black Friday in-store shopping up from 2020 but trails pre-pandemic levels

Shoppers carry their purchases during Black Friday shopping at Fashion Outlets of Chicago in Rosemont of Greater Chicago Area, Illinois on Nov. 26, 2021. Photo: Joel Lerner/Xinhua via Getty Images

More shoppers flocked to stores on Black Friday this year compared to last, but online shopping was lower than expected, according to data from Friday.

Driving the news: Online shopping was on the lower end of what was expected, largely because people had been ringing up their shopping carts earlier in the year in an effort to skirt potential supply chain issues, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

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