PORTLAND, Maine — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded the City of Portland nearly $900,000 on Friday, October 11 to cover costs the city incurred while helping asylum seekers who arrived in Maine in the summer of 2019.
This is how the funding will be distributed: the City of Portland Family Shelter will receive $864,000 in funding to cover the costs they incurred helping asylum seekers, $20,400 will go to Preble Street Soup Kitchen, and $8,100 will go to the Jewish Community Alliance.
This award comes just months after Governor Janet Mills sent a letter to FEMA urging the federal agency to help Maine municipalities and local organizations that experienced an influx of asylum seekers and assist them.
“The State of Maine, the City of Portland, surrounding municipalities, charitable and faith-based organizations, residents, and many others stepped up to help those newly-arrived in Maine this past summer,” said Governor Mills. “Simply put, Maine did its part, and with this award, I am glad FEMA has heeded my call for the federal government to step up and do its part too.”
The Governor’s request for aid was passed by Congress, and President Trump signed it into law. The process also benefited from the efforts of Maine's Congressional delegation.
A joint statement from all four members of the delegation said, “While Maine is a welcoming state, our citizens should not bear these costs alone. We are pleased that this funding will help reimburse these organizations that compassionately provided humanitarian assistance.”
From their seats on the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree pushed to secure $30 million in funding for communities nationwide that were seeing an influx in asylum seekers. The money was included in an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that passed Congress with support from all of Maine's Congressional delegation.
The entire delegation also came together to write a letter in which they called on FEMA to distribute the aid.
"Portland is a welcoming city and our City staff work tirelessly to provide emergency shelter for those who need it," said Portland City Manager Jon Jennings. "This federal reimbursement will go a long way in relieving the impact on Portland taxpayers."
The Portland Expo served as a shelter for hundreds of asylum seekers through much of the summer. The last of them left for homes in the community by mid-August.