By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,345)
Early Tuesday morning, June 25th, the City Council approved an amendment to the 2015-16 budget referred to as the Brenerman/Costa General Assistance Amendment. The vote was 5 – 4 in its favor. Those voting in its favor were: Councilors Brenerman, Costa, Marshall, Donoghue and Mayor Brennan. Those opposing the amendment were the more conservative wing of the Council: Duson, Mavadones, Suslovic and Hinck. (Duson was the sponsor of a watered down similar Amendment). The meeting ended between 1:30 am and 2:00 am on Tuesday, June 25th – about eight hours after it convened on Monday evening. (mhn.com left the Council meeting Monday evening about 11:15 pm., sensing a long evening ahead!)
The successful amendment states that beginning on July 1, 2015, asylum seekers who have received General Assistance (GA) from Portland as of June 30, 2015 will be formally assisted from a new local fund – the Portland Community Support Fund, established by the City Council. The amendment further states that beginning July 1, 2015, no new or additional asylum seekers will be provided GA benefits from the Portland Community Support Fund. This fund will be a “one year program reasonably and affordably hereby funded with a one-time appropriation of $2,634,000 and shall be funded from: $2,000,000 from state funding and $634,000 from funds already budgeted by the City Manager in the proposed city budget.
Numerous people testified in support of continued funding for asylum seekers in Portland. One of them was Portland State Minority Leader Rep. Justin Alfond, (D) who said he shared a feeling of failure at the State’s position on GA benefits. Janet Gunn, formerly a home owner, donated a check for $134.for the newly created Fund to support asylum seekers. USM Social Work Professor Paula Gerstenblatt said she would pay higher property taxes in order to finance a fund for asylum seekers in Portland. “Their stories are so compelling. The asylum seekers I know are so positive, goal-oriented and resilient and independent. They want to be doctors and lawyers………we need to keep them going and to encourage them ……someday they will be replacing us. We don’t want to lose them,” she said.
mhn.com is having difficulty posting this article, hence the slowness of the post.