I endorse Portland Mayor Michael Brennan’s comments regarding our moral imperative to welcome and assist asylum seekers who, if they were not here, would face persecution in their home countries.

Gov. LePage is also correct that we have longtime Mainers in need and limited resources to provide necessary services for them.

I agree that General Assistance is not the ideal funding source to assist “new” Mainers – those asylum seekers who require financial support. Unfortunately, General Assistance currently is the only major funding source available to support all individuals in need.

This tension over who should receive our scarce resources should not divide us as a community or as a state. We have an obligation to try to help all needy Mainers.

Importantly, welcoming cities such as Portland and Lewiston should receive adequate federal funds to support the services that are required for the segment of the asylum population requiring assistance.

I encourage the governor and key mayors collaboratively to engage our congressional delegation, particularly Sen. Susan Collins, who is on the powerful Appropriations Committee, to secure adequate federal funding to support our efforts to assist asylum seekers requiring transitional support.

In the meantime, both new and longtime Mainers should be eligible for General Assistance.

It is also time for Portland to recognize and capitalize on the benefits of our growing diversity. Specifically, we should expand our grant-writing capabilities, particularly on the school side, to take advantage of extensive private sources of funding.

Portland is a microcosm of a large city. Our unique demographics provide opportunities to seek and receive grant money both to study problems and to identify and evaluate potential best practices – particularly to cost-effectively improve our public schools and social service agencies serving our growing diverse population.

Ken Farber