Following the City Council’s June 25th vote to pass the municipal budget, which included an amendment to fund the Portland Community Support Fund – an assistance program for asylum seekers – City staff are working to establish the structure and funding of the new program.
The program will fully fund current benefit levels for asylum seekers for the month of July, while staff develops a more long-term and viable program for the remainder of the fiscal year. It is expected that the proposed program will go before the Council for review and approval at its July 20th meeting.
The budget includes $5.2 million for general assistance and $2.9 million for Portland’s adult emergency shelter. Additionally, the City Council approved an amendment put forth by Councilors Brenerman and Costa to establish the Portland Community Support Fund. This amendment is in response to the state DHHS’ new policy of no longer reimbursing the city for GA payments that the city makes to people who are seeking asylum in the United States.
In order to prevent the loss of assistance to the asylum seekers who would be left homeless and without basic necessities, the amendment provides assistance to those who have received General Assistance from Portland as of June 30th of this year. No new or additional asylum seekers will be provided assistance out of the City budget as of July 1st. The Community Support Fund is a one-year program with a one-time appropriation of $2,634,000.
The amendment also includes the ability for the City to accept contributions from public and private sources, including government and non-government organizations, private foundations, and individuals on top of the $2.6 million that has been allocated to run the program.
Governor Paul LePage is opposed to the program and is inquiring as to his power to stop it.