The path to a potential showdown between the city of Portland and the LePage administration over General Assistance aid to asylum-seekers and other undocumented immigrants runs through the City Council meeting Monday night.

The council is expected to discuss the city’s upcoming request for state reimbursement of more than $300,000 in General Assistance that Portland provided during the last half of June, after the administration said it wouldn’t reimburse any aid to immigrants that Maine towns and cities handed out unless they verified that the recipients were documented.

The administration sent out that mandate in mid-June, saying federal welfare rules don’t allow aid for undocumented immigrants unless a state has explicitly decided that General Assistance can go to them – a step Maine has not taken, although it has continued to provide the aid. Later in June, Gov. Paul LePage said his administration would cut off all General Assistance reimbursements unless towns and cities certified they had verified the citizenship status of all applicants.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said she disagreed with the administration’s interpretation, saying Maine law requires aid based on need alone, and Portland, Westbrook and the Maine Municipal Association have challenged LePage’s directives in court.

Many municipal officials said the LePage rules put them in a position of being quasi-immigration officials and they have no training for the role.

Some Maine immigrants come to the state as visa holders under a program that allows them to visit friends and relatives. As the visas expire, they often seek asylum status rather than go back to countries that are in the midst of civil war or other violence.


While they are seeking asylum, federal rules bar immigrants from getting work, usually for at least six months. The asylum process is long, with waiting times growing, and the immigrants need help to pay rent and buy food in the meantime, said Julie Sullivan, Portland’s acting director of health and human services.

Portland is required to submit its request for reimbursement for General Assistance for June by the end of September, Sullivan said, and the council needs to talk about the ramifications in light of the new state rules.

If the LePage administration sticks to its insistence on cutting all reimbursements unless towns and cities verify citizenship status, it could have a significant impact on Portland’s budget. The city received about $10 million in General Assistance reimbursements from the state during the last budget year, excluding June, Sullivan said.

The council is expected to discuss that issue in public Monday night and then go into executive session to talk to its attorney about the status of the lawsuit against the state.

In other business, the council is expected to take up a plan for raising the height of Somerset Street by about 2 feet.

Insurance guidelines call for the street in the Midtown project being developed by the Federated Companies to be 12 feet above sea level, but it is currently only 10 feet above sea level. It will cost about $4 million to raise Somerset Street between Pearl and Elm streets. A new cost-sharing plan calls for the city to pay two-thirds of the cost and for the Federated Companies to pay the other third. Some of the city’s share will come from a federal grant and about $700,000 from a new city bond the council will be asked to approve Monday.


The council will also decide whether to approve new labor contracts with the Professional and Technical City Employees Association and the Police Superior Officers Benevolent Association.

Under the proposed contract, about 140 Pro-Tech workers will get a raise of 1 percent, retroactive to July 7, 2013, and another 1 percent retroactive to July 6 of this year. Another 1 percent wage increase will kick in next January and a 3 percent raise will be effective on July 5, 2015.

The Superior Officers bargaining unit covers 32 police lieutenants and sergeants. Their proposed contract calls for a 1 percent raise retroactive to January, another 1 percent raise retroactive to July 6, a 1 percent raise in January 2015 and a 3 percent raise in January 2016.

Finally, the city’s lawyer and city clerk are up for 4 percent raises, retroactive to July 1.

Mayor Michael Brennan said the two are among a handful of employees who report directly to the council, but their raises will match those given most of the city’s management-level employees, with 1 percent reflecting a cost-of-living adjustment and the other 3 percent a merit raise.

Brennan noted that Sheila Hill-Christian, who was named acting city manager this month after the resignation of City Manager Mark Rees, had her salary set at the time she took on the interim role. She will be paid about $147,000, roughly what Rees was paid.

The council will meet in a workshop session at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall. Its regular meeting begins at 7 p.m.

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