Portland city councilors approved an additional $20 million to help pay for a surge in asylum seekers and those experiencing homelessness.
State and federal coronavirus funds will cover this cost for now, however federal funding is set to end in June.
If the effort doesn’t receive more funding from the state, the city may have to look at more drastic options that may include raising property taxes. Under state law, cities and towns must aid asylum seekers and the homeless, according to WGME.
Portland currently uses 12 hotels in six communities to shelter what city leaders call a growing number of asylum seekers and others experiencing homelessness. That cost is expected to exceed $44 million next year.
Without the federal funding set to expire this summer, the city may have to raise Portland’s property taxes by 15 percent to deal with a $13-million shortfall.
Another funding option includes a bill to raise state general assistance reimbursement to 90 percent in communities like Portland.
Some Portland homeowners say that’s not sustainable, especially when property taxes already went up during a home revaluation last year.
“I don’t know. I just feel like it’s another increased cost for anybody who wants to stay here in Portland. And it’s making it harder and harder just to live everyday life and support a home,” said Danny Napolitano, a Portland homeowner.
Governor Janet Mills has also proposed $22 million to create an emergency housing relief fund, including rental assistance for those staying in hotels.
A new bill at the federal level from Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Susan Collins would allow asylum seekers to work after 30 days instead of waiting a year.
Portland Interim City Manager Danielle West and Governor Mills say they support the expedited work authorizations for asylum seekers.