Mayor Supports Legislation to Help Asylum Seekers Until They Can Enter Workforce

Mayor Brennan Hosted a Press Conference This Morning on LD 369.  (He's Center Front Back to Camera.)

Mayor Brennan Hosted a Press Conference This Morning on LD 369. (He’s Center Front – Back to Camera.)

An Immigrant Speaks at This Morning's Press Conference Called by Mayor Brennan

Aimee Nyhirakanyana, Grocery Store Owner, Speaks at  Press Conference Called by Mayor Brennan

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,322)

Tomorrow the State Legislature will take up LD 369 – an amended bill that if approved will assist asylum seekers in Portland according to Mayor Michael Brennan. The bill, amended in the State’s Health & Human Services Committee, will decide who is here legally and who is not eligible to receive General Assistance, (“GA”). The amendment is supported by the Mayor.

At issue is an ongoing struggle between the City of Portland and Governor Paul LePage over the distribution of GA to asylum seekers – people who need financial support until they are able to support themselves financially with employment.  A broad coalition of community members spoke in favor of the legislation at the morning press conference on the steps of city hall, including Tim Soley, East Brown Cow Management Co.

If this bill is not passed, 900 more people will become homeless and without food.  “This is not a good direction for Portland,” the Mayor said.  Portland needs growth and diversity.  With a well-known aging population, the city needs youth and the skills that asylum seekers bring to Portland.

Last week it was widely reported in the news that the State of Maine ranks 47th in the country for economic growth. During his term as Mayor, Brennan has visited over forty (40) local businesses to find out how the City can assist them in the growth of their businesses. The overwhelming problem businesses reported was a lack of skilled workers – a niche that asylum seekers can fill for employees lacking the skilled workers needed to grow their businesses.

Chris Hall, executive director of the Regional Chamber of Commerce said:  “We are distressed that we are loosing some of the most talented people we have. We want to retain them.  We work every day with employers to try to integrate people into the economy.”