URGENT ~ Maine’s Immigrants Need Your Help!

URGENT! Take Action to Help New Mainers
As previously reported, Gov. LePage is attempting to enact a rule change regarding General Assistance that will have a widespread, potentially devastating effect on new Mainers, including those assisted by Hope Acts. There are several things you can do this week to help ensure this change does not happen.

Attend the public hearing on January 10 at 19 Union Street, conference room 110, in Augusta starting at 1:00 pm.  There will be opportunities for individuals to testify against this policy change, or just be there to show that many Mainers oppose this oppressive policy change. Hope Acts will be arranging carpools to Augusta; if you are interested in attending and need or can give a ride, please let us know by January 6.

(Maine residents) Submit a written comment about why this proposal is unjust. The deadline for written comments to be received in Augusta is January 24. Send them to:
Dave MacLean, General Assistance Program Manager
Department of Health & Human Services
Office for Family Independence
11 State House Station, 19 Union Street
Augusta, ME 04333-0011

>> Here is a template you can use for your written testimony.
>> Here are some talking points that may be helpful to you.

(Maine residents only) Sign the online petition here.
Note: If you already signed the paper petition at HopeGateWay, you do not need to sign the online petition — they are being compiled together and submitted to DHHS by January 24.

If you don’t wish to attend the hearing but have some time to share on January 10, plan to attend a rally outside the hearing, sponsored by Welcoming Immigrants Network.

We also ask you to consider a tax-deductible gift to Hope Acts, so we can continue to provide hospitality, hope and healing to immigrants and asylum-seekers, who will certainly suffer the consequences if this law takes effect.

Background information
On December 19, 2013, Maine Governor Paul LePage proposed a rule change to the General Assistance (GA) program that would eliminate GA for all immigrants who do not qualify for state or federal TANF or Food Supplement benefits. Currently, there are no citizenship requirements in the GA program. This rule change would mean that GA would no longer be available to most immigrants in our community, including all asylum seekers, as they do not qualify for TANF or food supplements from the state or federal governments.

This would be devastating for many new Mainers, including the asylum seekers Hope Acts serves who rely on GA to pay for housing and to meet their other basic needs until they are eligible for a work permit and find employment.

>> The Portland Press Herald (December 24, 2013) article outlines the issue

Gov. LePage is trying to make this rule change by executive order rather than through the normal legislative process, but it has not yet become law. Hope Acts is working with other agencies, including the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Welcoming Immigrants Network, Maine People’s Alliance and others to mobilize efforts to prevent this law from taking effect. There are legal arguments against this policy change; our partners plan to argue that it would violate the state GA law as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  There are also public policy arguments to make as this would surely result in increased suffering, homelessness, and hunger.