SEATTLE – Council unanimously approved legislation today, which calls on several City departments to investigate options that would allow Seattle residents to continue servicing remittances to Somalia. Due to federal government action in February, the Merchants Bank of California closed the accounts of all Somali-American Money Transfer Operators due to issues surrounding federal money laundering and terrorism financing regulations. Thousands of Somalis in Seattle are now unable to send money back to their families to help with basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and education.
“We want to do everything we can to help our Somali community and make all resources available in our advocacy strategy to implement changes at the federal level,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “This is a complex problem, but we must find a way for families both here and there to safely and securely exchange money.”
“This is a humanitarian issue affecting hard working Somali families in Seattle,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We will explore all options to assist the Somali community as they try to help their loved ones in Somalia. I’m hopeful we can work with federal officials and local financial institutions to find the right solution.”
“Finding ways to safely and securely send money back to family in Somalia is incredibly important to our Somali residents here in Seattle, and the City must explore every angle to help facilitate those transactions,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “We have got to find a solution or countless people in Somalia will continue to suffer as this critical aid to their economy is shut off.”
Resolution 31578 reaffirms the City of Seattle’s support of Somali communities to continue sending remittances to Somalia and the Horn of Africa. It also specifically calls on the City of Seattle to help facilitate a stronger relationship between our Somali residents and local lending institutions and credit unions in order achieve access to capital and credit.
Seattle has one of the biggest Somali communities in the United States, many of whom were refugees. Each year, Somalia receives approximately $1.3 billion in remittances from the United States and more than 730,000 people in Somalia are dependent on this financial assistance lifeline.
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