January 25

Maine urged to reject change to immigrant aid

Portland leaders speak out and advocates deliver 2,600 signatures to DHHS from concerned Mainers.

From staff reports

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and several community leaders on Friday urged the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to reject a proposed rule change that would deny state benefits to asylum seekers and some other immigrants.

Advocates also delivered more than 2,600 signatures to DHHS from concerned Mainers who say the state should reject the rule change, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine said in a news release.

The latest push follows a DHHS hearing in Augusta earlier this month that drew more than 100 people opposed to the rule change, which would prohibit hundreds of asylum seekers and some other immigrants from receiving General Assistance while waiting for their work permits. Friday was the last day for people to turn in written testimony to DHHS before the agency makes a final decision.

“This proposal will leave hundreds of people homeless within a month and thousands within a year in the city of Portland alone,” Brennan said in a statement. “It will have devastating effects on our city and our state. And who will be left to help new Mainers get on their feet? We simply cannot make such a costly mistake.”

No one spoke in favor of the change during the Jan. 10 hearing. A DHHS official who was there, Bethany Hamm, director of the Office for Family Independence, said the rule change has been reviewed by Gov. Paul Le- Page, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and the Attorney General’s Office, and all three have “signed off” on it with a target date of April.

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