Last week, Portland, Maine, announced that due to the “unprecedented” number of individuals arriving from the southern border, its government would have to delay submitting a budget for the fiscal year 2023 because the city can no longer financially afford to care for the influx of individuals.
According to city leaders, the only available options to keep Maine’s largest city financially stable are massive tax hikes, cutting millions in other government programs, or receiving more assistance from state and federal agencies.
“The primary reason for this delay is due to the fact that over the last six (6) months the City has been experiencing an unprecedented volume of asylum seeker arrivals from the U.S. southern border, and record numbers of circumstantially and chronically homeless individuals seeking emergency shelter services,” Interim City Manager Danielle P. West said in a letter addressed to Mayor Kate Snyder (D) and other government officials.
Portland is not alone in struggling to handle the increase of asylum seekers and other individuals. Under President Joe Biden, “crossings hit more than 1.5 million in fiscal year 2021 and are approaching 1 million already in fiscal year 2022,” CBS Austin in Texas recently reported.
Spectrum News also recently reported that of the “1,200 people in greater Portland with no fixed address” more than “700 are from other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola or Haiti, seeking asylum in the U.S.”
To that extent, West emphasized that the city will no longer be able to continue caring for such individuals.
“While we are proud to be a welcoming city, take our General Assistance (GA) obligation seriously, and understand the value and benefits of having new residents in Maine, we are in a dire situation,” West’s letter to Portland’s mayor continued.
“Our staff is stretched extremely thin and cannot adequately provide the required resources to the hundreds of new arrivals, our shelters are beyond their capacity, and it is increasingly harder to find enough hotels to provide overflow accommodations,” West stressed.
West also stated that the city expected to spend more than $44 million over the next fiscal year on asylum housing alone, which is at least double the entire budget for the city’s Health and Human Services program.
“Of course, this figure does not account for future arrivals and the City has been seeing nearly 100 individuals arriving per week so the cost could continue to rise significantly in the coming months,” West added.
Currently, the Federal Emergency Management Administration covers 30% of the city’s budget, but that funding will run out at the end of June.
To offset those costs, “a Portland property tax rate increase of approximately 15% would be required or approximately $13M in cuts from other core City services would be necessary,” West warned.
The letter comes as Title 42 — a public health policy that allows expedited removal of asylum seekers during emergencies like COVID-19 — is set to expire on May 23.
In March, the Department of Homeland Security stated that the federal government meant expects as many as 18,000 individuals to arrive per day at the southern border if Title 42 is rescinded.
Last week, House Republicans warned that the situation at the southern border was a national security crisis.
“Anytime in this country you hear of a drug overdose death, whether it be in Topeka, Kansas, or Syracuse, New York, my hometown, you have to understand that every single community is a border a community, and every single state is a border state because the poison that’s coming across our borders,” Congressman John Katko (R-NY) said at a press conference addressing the “national security crisis” at the U.S. border.
“That’s much more easy to do because of the number illegal aliens coming across is making it impossible to stop and it’s killing kids all over the country,” Kato added.
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