Concise Summary: This Rule amends sections II and IV of the Maine General Assistance Manual.
The Maine Legislature amended the definition of "eligibility" in the Municipal General Assistance law through P.L. 2015, ch. 324, codified at 22 M.R.S. Section 4301(3), by adding the following sentence: "Beginning July 1, 2015, in accordance with 8 United States Code, Section 1621(d), "eligible person" means a person who is lawfully present in the United States or who is pursuing a lawful process to apply for immigration relief, except that assistance for such a person may not exceed 24 months." These rule changes broaden the scope of the definitions for "lawfully present" and "pursuing a lawful process to apply for immigration relief," in Section II, as well as amend the "Immigration Status" provisions in Section IV, consistent with the 2015 law. As set forth more specifically, below, these changes are necessary and proper for the protection of life, health and welfare, and the successful operation of Maine's health and welfare laws. 22 M.R.S. Section 42(1).
Pursuant to 5 MRS Section 8054, the Department finds that emergency rulemaking is necessary to implement these changes as soon as possible given the recent influx of noncitizens, into Maine, who are at the first stages of the asylum-seeking process. Obtaining legal employment while their applications for asylum are pending is often difficult or impossible. These residents thus require immediate assistance with basic needs such as shelter and food. Various Maine municipalities are expending both privately and publicly sourced emergency funds for such care, and have opened emergency shelters to provide temporary housing. Adjacent municipalities have offered assistance of various sorts, but such aid is limited by their own municipal budgetary restrictions. The anticipated exhaustion of local resources will cause a critical problem with the provision of assistance to such migrants, many of them children, including medicine, food and shelter. Pursuant to 22 M.R.S. Section 4301(3), these rule changes require municipalities to provide General Assistance to eligible asylum seekers, and allow municipalities to obtain state funding for same. Modification of the usual rulemaking procedures under the Maine Administrative Procedure Act is necessary to meet the immediate threat to public health, safety and welfare that would arise if rules addressing this emergency could not be enacted without delay.