ILAP Testimony in Support of the City of Portland Community Support Fund and Overflow Shelter Funding

Good Evening Mayor Strimling and the Portland City Council. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the amendment to restore funding to the Community Support Fund and overflow shelter.

My name is Julia Brown.  I am the Advocacy and Outreach Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) and I am a resident of Portland.  ILAP is Maine’s only statewide nonprofit provider of immigration law and related legal aid to Maine’s low-income residents.  We urge you to approve the amendment and fully fund the Community Support Fund and overflow shelter, as well as to restore services for the intended recipients of the Community Support Fund.

Individuals who come to Portland and are fleeing violence and seeking asylum cannot legally work right away. Rather, they must first apply for asylum – a painstakingly detailed, complicated, and time-consuming process, usually without the assistance of a lawyer. During this time, Portland has, for the last several years, provided the necessary assistance to keep these families housed and fed.

Unfortunately, the City is no longer serving people seeking asylum who weren’t already receiving funds from the Community Support Fund after a certain date. This means that some families, who arrived to the United States on a visa and were thus eligible for and received GA, have, now that the visa has expired, been kicked off and are without any assistance at all.  It means that families who are arriving now are completely without help. Moreover, the program that used to provide comprehensive funding now only provides rental assistance.

We urge the Council to approve the amendment and fully fund the Community Support Fund as well as the overflow. But we also urge the Council to restore the Community Support Fund to its intended purpose – providing assistance to families who are going to apply for asylum and are still preparing their applications. Without providing this help, you are forcing families to choose between meeting their basic needs and submitting a complete and thorough application for asylum. That is not a calculus we should be forcing these families to make.