Benefits for refugees and asylum seekers

Refugees coming to America are not a novel concept. More and more individuals are seeking out the “American Dream” to better their lives after leaving wars, starvation and brutality in lawful ways.

What happens when refugees and asylum seeking individuals and families come to America and are facing a harsh reality of food insecurity and job restrictions not allowing them to live up to the former “American Dream” they were told about?

Under federal law PL 96-212, The Refugee Act of 1980, they are entitled to SNAP, TANF, limited medical assistance and limited cash assistance to help with their basic human needs. In Maine, this has not been an option because former state leaders have called them a burden on Maine’s resources and restricted them from accessing services. How can lawful refugees and asylum seekers be a burden on resources when, under The Refugee Act of 1980, states can be reimbursed for 100 percent of the cost?

Refugees and immigrants are two times more likely to start new business. How can they be a burden on Maine’s resources when they are contributing to Maine’s economic growth? If their basic physiological and safety needs were being met, imagine the growth and community engagement that could happen.

I implore you to contact your state legislators about supporting LD 1317, a bill that would restore assistance to Maine’s refugees and asylum seekers and to consider testifying on behalf of this bill Friday.

Brooklin Jones

Orono

Crumbling infrastructure

More than half of Maine’s roads are “in poor or mediocre condition” according to CNBC’s 2018 look at “ The 10 states with the worst infrastructure.”

Maine ranked sixth in the percentage of structurally deficient bridges (followed by Louisiana and Puerto Rico) in an April 1 report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

It doesn’t stop there.

Our infrastructure “ Report Card” grade is C-, according to an American Society of Civil Engineers analysis in 2016, its latest report. The worse grade? “D” for roads. Dams, waste water and transportation all received a “D+.” The highest grades? Ports, with a “B-.”

Our roads never fare well after a harsh winter, but they’ve been neglected for so long by budget shortfalls that we are jolted and jarred as we maneuver our vehicles around cavernous potholes and ragged patches-on-top-of-patches.

Gov. Janet Mills and the Legislature are working to bring the state out of the previous administration’s eight-year slide. Even though nearly $200 million in general obligation bonds and federal funds were approved at the end of 2018, it will take years to catch up.

It’s unconscionable to borrow annually to pay for regular maintenance. The highway account is mostly funded through the state’s tax on gasoline, which hasn’t been raised in nearly a decade. That means raising taxes at the pumps, but borrowing adds interest — so we would pay even more.

Improving our crumbling roads and bridges (as well as providing broadband to rural areas) needs to be a priority. Otherwise, be prepared for years of teeth-rattling driving on Maine’s roads.

Connie Sage Conner

Harpswell

Automatic voter registration supports veterans

I am a Vietnam combat veteran. I spent the last 10 years of my professional life as an Immigration Inspector and Customs and Border Protection Officer on the Maine-Quebec border and at the Bangor International Airport.

In Bangor, I helped to inspect thousands of troops returning from conflicts around the world. I know very well the kind of issues they face, which is why I felt — and still feel — the need to do more for these young men and women than swipe their passports and inspect their customs declarations. More than anything, veterans of our faraway and forever wars need to be listened to, to have their voices heard in the democracy that they have fought so hard to protect. What they offer, what they can deliver, is far too important to ignore.

I can think of no better way to invite their re-integration in the democratic process than to implement the automatic voter registration process now under consideration by the Legislature.

Already in operation in 18 states, automatic voter registration would streamline the process for our veterans who are eligible to vote to participate in elections by: ensuring eligible voters are registered unless they decline and updating voter information at government agencies without requiring additional paperwork.

For these young people, always on the move while in uniform, it is far too easy for their most important right as citizens to get lost in the shuffle.

Let’s fix that.

Bill Jefferson

Buxton