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Asylum Seekers in Maine's Largest City Face New Hurdles

PORTLAND, Maine - Almost 200 asylum seekers living in Portland may face another hurdle to getting financial aid for food and housing:  New state legislation limits to two years the length of time asylum seekers can receive general assistance benefits.

City officials in Portland say federal law may prevent the city from stepping in to provide that aid.

"The problem is at the federal level, their law says unless the state allows it, the local municipality may not be able to provide that assistance on their own," says Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling.

Strimling says the city is trying to get a better understanding of what the law says and what the city can and can't do.

"Most of us here in the city and on the council wanted to make sure our most vulnerable residents are taken care of as they try to put a foundation under themselves to support their family," he says.

City taxpayers have provided aid for another group of asylum seekers who were no longer eligible under state rules,  something Strimling says the state allowed.  He says he hopes the state will also give its OK this time. 


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Ed is a Maine native who spent his early childhood in Livermore Falls before moving to Farmington. He graduated from Mount Blue High School in 1970 before going to the University of Maine at Orono where he received his BA in speech in 1974 with a broadcast concentration. It was during that time that he first became involved with public broadcasting. He served as an intern for what was then called MPBN TV and also did volunteer work for MPBN Radio.