New England states face a looming crisis in funding housing for tens of thousands of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers after federal funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program dries up.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has asked the state legislature to approve $130 million in funding to support existing shelters and fund construction of new shelters for more than 10,000 illegal aliens . Most of them entered the United States illegally across the southern border, according to the Boston Globe.
In Maine, a state commission said it wanted $182 million a year in taxpayers’ money to accommodate ERA beneficiaries, an unknown number of whom are nonresidents currently living in hotels and motels — primarily in southern Maine — while the ERA -Program starts up the tab.
New Hampshire is also scrambling to find money after federal funds are gone. According to the New Hampshire Bulletin, some state lawmakers want a $20 million emergency specifically for those living in hotels and motels. The state estimates that 700 people would benefit from the funding.
Vermont lawmakers met last week to address the issue. The state has spent $456 million on emergency shelter programs over the past six years, but homelessness is mysteriously still rising. Vermont, unlike other New England states, has allocated $37 million in federal funding that will support emergency shelter programs through March.
The US Congress created the ERA program to help Americans stay housed as the 2020 and 2021 state lockdowns eroded their ability to work. Two bills, the first signed by President Donald Trump and the second by President Joe Biden, gave states massive tranches of money to distribute to people who claimed they were having trouble paying rent.
[RELATED: Maine Emergency Rental Assistance Ending As Funding Dwindles…]
More than 30,000 Mainers benefited from the ERA program in 2021-2022, and thousands of individuals are still receiving assistance or are part of a family unit.
The Maine Housing Authority, which administered the program for the state, was able to extend federal funding for the program until late November, just after the election, but now the crisis is heating up as eviction notices hit tenants who can no longer afford rent .
Maine Housing does not know the immigration status of the more than 400 families who live in hotels and motels. The state has never attempted to count the number of nonresidents who benefit from the program, so state officials have no idea how many illegal aliens and asylum seekers received housing benefits.
Immigration advocates reported last year that about 1,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti, arrived in Maine after crossing the southern border.
Trump and Biden’s federal funding laws did not contain a requirement that recipients be lawful residents of the United States. Although some states imposed residency requirements on the program, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts did not.
Maine Housing could not say who in Maine made the decision not to impose a citizenship requirement on the program.
The result is that thousands of illegal aliens and asylum seekers who cannot legally work in the US are displaced and potentially homeless in New England in the dead of winter — despite not being able to legally work. It’s a crisis that was entirely predictable a few months ago, but the state has barely prepared.
[RELATED: State Commission Wants New $182M Per Year Welfare Program for Renters, Including Asylum Seekers…]
The Maine Commission to Improve Housing Opportunities, a panel of left-wing community organizers and state legislators, has told Maine Public that their solution to the problem is a permanent new state welfare program. If this potential welfare program follows the ERA model, there will be no citizenship requirement, meaning Maine taxpayers would be permanently hooked on the hires of some illegal aliens and asylum seekers.
Maine Housing told the state commission that without state support, the ERA program would cost an estimated $182 million per year to fund, although it’s unclear how they arrived at that estimate. Funding these kinds of expenses was easy in 2020 and 2021, when billions of federal dollars poured into Maine’s coffers. In the absence of such federal generosity, Mills and Democratic lawmakers have not indicated where the money might come from.
During last month’s gubernatorial debates, Democrat Mills said Maine needs these asylum seekers to fill vacancies in the state.
The prospect of free or subsidized housing, along with other benefit programs administered by state and local agencies, would create a powerful incentive for those entering the country illegally, legitimate refugees, and those posing as asylum seekers to go to Maine. But under federal law, illegal aliens and asylum seekers are not eligible to legally work in the United States
Asylum seekers are not allowed to work until their asylum application has been approved and they have been granted permanent residence status.
However, federal data shows that only 14 percent of asylum seekers have actually been approved in recent years.
That begs the question of how Maine is going to accommodate the other 86 percent who arrived in Maine, sought housing, enrolled their children in public schools and are now unable to legally work.
Mills said in the debates that she intends to ask the US Congress and President Biden to change labor rules and allow asylum seekers and some non-residents to work legally in the US – a change in policy that her opponent, the former Republican Governor Paul LePage, supported .
There is no public indication that she has yet fulfilled the promise. Any federal change of this magnitude would have to vacate the House of Representatives, which is now under the control of a Republican majority combative on illegal immigration issues.