Gov. LePage recently told the Joint Appropriations Committee that asylum seekers are getting “an all-expense-paid, two-year vacation because they can’t work.”

My husband and I have been helping a man who is seeking asylum after having been tortured, jailed and threatened with death numerous times in his home country. When he got to Portland, he lived in a homeless shelter.

He applied for, and received, General Assistance for food and, after six weeks, found housing and was able to use another General Assistance voucher. (Under Maine Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, a single person receives a maximum of $838 per month for food and shelter.) Housing was a shared room, with another asylum seeker sleeping on the floor.

Almost immediately upon arriving in Maine, he applied for a federal work permit. This takes almost six months – because of a backlog at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, not because asylum seekers are unwilling to start work at once.

In the interim, he volunteered at a local church. Once he was eligible to work, after about six months, he found an entry-level position at a fish processing plant and then as a dishwasher in a restaurant while, at the same time, obtaining a qualification to be a home health care aide.

He has been working, often times two jobs, in the health care field. He has been paying federal and Maine income taxes for four years and has been contributing, in a positive way, to the Maine economy. His Maine income taxes alone have more than doubled the amount he received from General Assistance.

This is hardly “an all-expense-paid, two-year vacation,” as characterized by the governor with his inflammatory, misguided and inaccurate statements. “Alternative facts” seem to be alive in Maine as well as nationally.

Joan Leitzer

Portland