Portland’s Health and Human Services Department overstated the number of asylum seekers and visa holders receiving General Assistance in a report issued earlier this week that relied on numbers taken from the wrong database.

“The actual numbers for (fiscal year 2015) have increased, but not to the extent as originally reported,” Communications Director Jessica Grondin said in an email Thursday explaining the city’s mistake.

A report released Monday for the City Council’s Public Health and Human Services Committee incorrectly said that in the first five months of the 2015 fiscal year, 67 percent of the city’s 2,826 General Assistance clients were people seeking asylum or visa holders. The city noted that percentage represented 1,899 individuals, more than the 1,716 total for all the people who received aid for the entire 2014 fiscal year.

However, new figures released by the city on Thursday night show that in the first five months of the 2015 fiscal year, 48 percent of General Assistance clients, or 1,365 individuals, were asylum seekers or people holding visas. Meanwhile, the number of “all other clients” receiving assistance was actually 534 more than the city initially reported Monday, increasing from 927 individuals to 1,461.

Grondin said the mistake happened when the city pulled numbers from the wrong database. People can access General Assistance several times a year, so the report was intended to show the number of unique individuals getting aid. Instead, the city used the data that was based on the total number of times aid was used by those individuals, rather than number of people using it, she said.

Grondin, however, was unable to find an explanation, or say whether it was mere coincidence, when it was pointed out that the 534-person increase in “all other clients” exactly matches the decrease in asylum seekers and visa holders from 1,899 to 1,365.

The new data comes as Gov. Paul LePage prepares to embark on a second term in the Blaine House, promising to make welfare reform a priority. He already has sought to prohibit asylum seekers and other undocumented immigrants from receiving General Assistance – a move that is being challenged in state court by Portland, Westbrook and the Maine Municipal Association, a nonprofit representing towns and cities.

Mayor Michael Brennan said the council will be provided with an update about the pending lawsuit and General Assistance reimbursement issue at a workshop Monday. He downplayed the significance of the city’s error.

“I don’t think that (the number of immigrants getting aid) is a major concern at this point,” Brennan said.

Sue Roche, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, a nonprofit that helps asylum seekers navigate the legal process, was skeptical about the city’s initial report. She said any increases were likely due to backlogs in the immigration courts, rather than a spike in aid applications.

The new report “seems more in line with what we’re seeing at the office,” she said.

General Assistance is a benefits program of last resort and the costs are shared by the communities and the state. Communities give the aid to families or individuals who provide financial records showing they do not have the income or savings to pay for basic needs. Most General Assistance is provided in the form of rent vouchers to prevent people from being evicted.

Asylum seekers typically come to the U.S. on valid visas and then apply for asylum to stay permanently to escape war-torn or politically troubled nations, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. Asylum applicants have to prove there is a real risk they will be persecuted if they return home.

There were 587 asylum applicants in Maine waiting for interviews with the federal officers who review cases, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official said in September.