General Assistance for Asylum Seekers

General Assistance for Asylum Seekers


Governor LePage has consistently misled the public, playing off xenophobia to score political points in advocating for the denial of public assistance to immigrants.  


In 2015, he failed to veto a bill that ensured asylum seekers could access General Assistance.  Many of Maine’s asylum seekers come from countries like Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Djibouti, where their lives and those of their family members are in danger.


After the Governor failed to veto that bill, it became law, Public Law 324.  The details are below.


The Governor continues to use administrative means to undercut that law’s intent through the Department of Health and Human Services.  He and the state Republican party backed an effort to place a referendum on the ballot that would eliminate coverage for asylum seekers.  That effort, launched in 2015, failed to gather the signatures necessary to place it on the 2016 ballot.  It remains to be seen if the Governor and his supports will press to have it on the 2017 ballot.


Maine People’s Alliance opposes all efforts discriminate against people based on their race, national origin, religion, and immigration status.  Lawmakers should oppose any further attempt to deny essential aid to our neighbors fleeing for their lives from some of the planet’s worst conflicts.

From Maine Equal Justice Partners:


PUBLIC LAW 324 took effect on October 15th, 2015.  At that time, people seeking asylum and other immigrant groups may qualify for General Assistance (GA) benefits for up to 24 months (2 years).  This means that:

  • Current GA recipients (both grandfathered individuals and people with a valid visa) may continue to be eligible for GA for up to 2 years.

  • New applicants covered by Public Law 324 will be eligible for GA for up to 2 years from the time they start receiving GA benefits.

Under Public Law 324, the following groups are eligible for GA:

  1. People who are “lawfully present” in the U.S.; and

  2. People who are “pursuing a lawful process to apply for immigration relief”.

Under the state law, anyone who is either lawfully present or pursuing a lawful process should qualify.  This should include people who are pursuing asylum (even if they have not yet applied, as long as they are pursuing that application process) as well as others who are pursuing a lawful process for immigration relief (like someone applying for protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).