Union to deny general assistance to illegal aliens

Awards mowing, demolition bids
By Beth A. Birmingham | Jul 07, 2014
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Town Manager Jay Feyler, left, answers questions from the Union Board of Selectmen regarding administration of General Assistance benefits to illegal aliens. Also shown are selectman Bud Savage and Chairman Greg Grotton.

Union — Union Board of Selectmen voted 4 to 1 to deny awarding general assistance to illegal immigrants, following orders sent to towns by Gov. Paul LePage.

"Gov. LePage says if we give general assistance to illegal aliens you will lose all reimbursements," said Union Town Manager Jay Feyler, referring to a statement the governor made in a letter to Maine municipalities.

At its July 1 meeting, Feyler explained that the Maine Municipal Association has asked the courts for a legal opinion.

In the letter, the governor cited a federal law passed in 1996 that prohibits giving general assistance to illegal aliens, and contradictory information being given from Attorney General Janet Mills and the Maine Municipal Association.

The Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter of guidance regarding enforcement of the federal law. LePage noted "DHHS worked with the Office of the Attorney General for months on a proposed rule to exclude certain non-citizens from General Assistance."

That proposed rule was initially approved by the Attorney General's office, but according to LePage, Mills then said the rule was unconstitutional.

"Enforcing the federal prohibition is another common-sense measure to make sure local taxpayers' dollars are helping Mainers, U.S. citizens or those living here with legal status," LePage stated in the letter.

The current ordinance is based solely on need not status, said Feyler.

Selectman Elmer "Bud" Savage expressed dismay at the recent news coverage, saying it is very misleading. Savage wanted to wait until a formal decision was made, and voted against the motion to deny benefits.

The General Assistance Program is administered for the support of the poor. Anyone wishing to apply for general assistance may do so at the town office. Applicants are responsible for providing the administrator with the information necessary to determine eligibility, including proof of all income and expenses.

Within 24 hours of receiving an application, the administrator must issue a written decision.

"It is unfortunate that the governor and the Attorney General’s Office has put municipalities in the middle of this dispute," said Feyler. "This is a lose-lose situation for all municipalities in Maine and ultimately the local taxpayer will cover the cost."

"This has become quite a political issue and everyone has a personal opinion including me," Feyler said.

He said his recommendation to the board was based on the liability and cost to the town.

"If we abide by the governor’s wishes we are violating the law according to the attorney general and will be subject to a lawsuit," said Feyler, "and if we don’t we will lose our reimbursement ... either way it costs the town money."

Feyler said he hopes the courts will make a decision in this matter before it becomes a major financial burden to municipalities.

"The bottom line is if we could get two parties to work together in Augusta and do what is right, this could have been resolved without any of these issues," said Feyler.

Union has not had any residents apply for general assistance, he said.

Other business

Also at the July 1 meeting, selectmen awarded George C. Hall of Rockland the contract to demolish and remove the sand and salt shed. Hall's bid of $13,575 was the lowest of the five bidders.

Other bidders were Jake Barbour at $18,500, Jarr Management at $19,250, Farley & Sons at $25,838, and Gordon Contracting at $38,940.

Of the two eligible bidders for the town roadside mowing, Miller Enterprises was awarded the two-year contract with a bid of $7,743.

And the gazebo on the Common is due to be repaired by Founder's Day, Friday, July 18. The building was struck by a car this past winter.

Selectmen approved a request from Common House of Pizza to place picnic tables on the Common on a trial basis.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Repairs being done to the gazebo at Union's Common are scheduled to be completed by Founder's Day July 18. The building was struck by a car this past winter. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Comments (1)
Posted by: paula sutton | Jul 08, 2014 06:53

The recent change in Maine law brings Maine into the same position as current Federal law.  In other words, current federal law prohibits general assistance for illegal immigrants.

It will be up to us, as caring citizens and neighbors to make up for this change.  True compassion is helping those in need, not forcing somebody else,(like the State to do it).

 

Maine is a not a wealthy state but we are generous and I suggest we contribute more to our local food kitchens and pantries while those who are here make  every attempt to make suitable arrangements to comply with our immigration laws.

 

The Governor is seeking to preserve our very limited resources for our legal residents who follow the law and are looking for assistance.  I am sympathetic for those here against the law who need help but the above article, on the very last line states that nobody has applied for assistance.  To cover the issue of possible liability for the towns Mr. Feyler and the others may wish to start a special fund designated for this use from private donations.  That way people could get help and the town would avoid potential liability.

 

To me, getting the two parties to work together has nothing to do with this issue.  It has everything to do with living without our means an not spending more than we have.  The State of Maine already receives more money from the Federal government than it pays out to them.

 

I would prefer my elderly neighbor who is a law abiding citizen , has lived here all her life , worked hard, made good decisions and is struggling with rising property taxes be a recipient of this type of aid if need be.



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Staff Profile

Beth Birmingham
Staff Reporter
594-4401 ext. 125
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Beth rejoined Courier Publications' news staff in February 2013. She previously worked at The Courier-Gazette from 1981 to 1990.

Her coverage area includes Warren, Union, Friendship, Waldoboro, Washington, and Thomaston and RSU40.

Beth has a passion for photography, and a degree from the University of Maine at Augusta, in affiliation with the Maine Photographic Workshop in Rockport.

Aside from photography, Beth enjoys running and walks along the waterfront, as well as other outdoor activities. She has a daughter, Claire, who is 14.

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