Fund to Financially Support Asylum Seekers Under Development by City Staff

Councilors Justin Costa and David Benerman co-sponsors of the Winning Amendment.

Councilors Justin Costa and David Benerman co-sponsors of the Successful General Assistance Amendment to the 2015-16 Budget.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,352)

Early last week, the Portland City Council voted 5 – 4 to  adopt the Brenerman/Costa amendment to the 2015-16 budget.- it provides General Assistance for asylum seekers receiving aid as of June 30, 2015.  One of the provisions of that amendment is the establishment of a Portland Community Support Fund.

In a press release issued late today, it was announced that city staff has been working to establish the structure and funding of the new Fund.  The City would like to alert the community that it will use the new fund to fully fund current benefit levels for asylum seekers for the month of July while staff develops a more long-term viable program for the remainder of FY 16.  It is expected that the proposed program will go before the  Council at its July 20, 2015 meeting for review and approval.

The FY16 budget was crafted in a way that responds to the changing environment and recent events that the City was faced with this year.  The budget includes $5.2 million for general assistance and $2.9 million for Portland’s adult emergency shelter.  Additionally, the City Council approved an amendment put forth by Councilors Benerman and Costa to establish the Portland Community Support Fund. This amendment is in response to the state DHHS’ new policy of no longer reimbursing the city for GA payments that the city makes to people who are seeking asylum in the United States.  In order to prevent the loss of assistance to the asylum seekers who would be left homeless and without basic necessities, the amendment provides assistance to those who have received general assistance from Portland as of today.  No new or additional asylum seekers will be provided assistance out of the City budget as of July 1, 2015.  The Community Support Fund is a one-year program with a one-time appropriation of $2,634,000.

The amendment also includes the ability for the City to accept contributions from public and private sources, including government and non-government organizations, private foundations and individuals on top of the $2.6 million that has been allocated to run the program.