Cities react to general assistance changes

LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- While Lewiston remains undecided, some of Maine's largest cities have announced plans to defy the LePage administrations latest attempt at welfare reform.

On Monday, DHHS instructed municipalities to stop giving general assistance to undocumented immigrants, or else forfeit welfare reimbursement from the state.

City leaders in Portland, South Portland, and Bangor, have stated that they will continue to give benefits to those residents.

Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett says the City Council discussed the policy change at its meeting Tuesday night, and they need more time to decide how to proceed.

"We feel like we're caught in the middle," said Barrett. "We don't feel like we have enough information."

He said city leaders are receiving mixed messages from state officials.

Attorney General Janet Mills has questioned the legality of the policy change, and is calling it a "Catch 22" for municipalities.

In a letter to the Maine Municipal Association, Mills explains that following the DHHS directive puts "a town at serious risk for a lawsuit" by those denied assistance.

The Maine Municipal Association has released a statement, and it part, it reads: "Municipalities are receiving two fundamentally competing directives from State Government and it is impossible for municipal administrators to comply simultaneously with both. The MMA will seek more guidance from the Attorney General's Office."

Barrett said Lewiston officials will continue to work with the MMA and Attorney General's office to decide the best course of action. He said he hopes to have a resolution by July.


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