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Portland city leaders to determine how $800,000 in donations will be spent on asylum seekers

If you donated, where do you want your money going? City officials want some of the money to go towards things like over-time costs for staff at the Portland Expo.

PORTLAND, Maine — In the last month, the city of Portland has received close to one-million dollars in donations for asylum seekers.

RELATED: Portland asylum seekers: What we know so far, and the answers we still seek

With the deadline for getting those families out of that make-shift shelter at the Portland Expo quickly approaching, city leaders are working to determine just how to distribute the funds.

"There will be a staff recommendation to the council," Portland's Director of Communication, Jess Grondin said. "We will ask that some of that money go to recouping the cost of running the Expo -- we're not looking to use all of it just a small portion to cover those costs."

While there's a cost that comes with running any shelter, Grondin says the Expo is different because it has been used as a 24/7 home for asylum seekers. Most of the services provided at the Chestnut Street shelter or Salvation Army are only available in the evening. 

In order to provide these asylum seeking families with the support they need, the city's staff has been working around the clock. Grondin says receiving a portion of the donation money would offset the cost for things like additional staffing and over-time accrued by running the emergency shelter recommendation.

"From our perspective," Grondin said. "We feel that we are staying true to the mission of the donated money because it was to provide housing and basic necessities."

So far Grondin and her staff have not received any concerns from donors directly about the recommendation, but some immigrant advocates in the community are weighing in.

"There undoubtedly were a lot of donors, some probably didn’t or are fine with the money going to the city," Hope Acts Executive Director, Martha Stein said. "But others are really looking for money to go towards helping people in the longer-term to set up their lives here."

Hope Act is a Portland based organization that provides transitional housing for asylum-seekers new to the Greater Portland area. 

"We don’t know what the actual expenses were from the city, we don’t know what other funds they have available," Stein said. "So, I would hope that they use funds as carefully and thoughtfully as possible and that should include providing direct support for people as they leave the Expo which is coming up very quickly."

The two say this discussion is happening while the city waits for a final answer from Governor Janet Mills about how and if the State will be providing any general assistance to asylum seekers in Maine.

Grondin says city leaders were supposed to receive the final word last week but have not yet received it.

Mills' staff has not yet provided a formal response to inquiries made by NEWS CENTER Maine via email about funding.

This story will be updated.

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