The 2011 Budget recently passed by Maine’s Legislature and signed into law by Governor Paul LePage includes a provision to disqualify recent non-citizen immigrants residing in Maine from applying for certain means-tested state benefits. The provision will disqualify all applicants for asylum, lawful permanent residents living in Maine who have held permanent resident status in the U.S. for less than five years, and certain other immigrants from attaining many state benefits. These changes take place July 1, 2011.
According to the Maine Equal Justice Partners’ press release entitled, “Final State Budget Impact on MaineCare, TANF, General Assistance and Benefits for Legal Immigrants,” lawful permanent residents who are currently receiving TANF, SSI, and Food Supplement benefits during their first 5 years in the U.S. will continue to receive them as long as they are eligible. In other words, these people will be “grandfathered” and will continue to receive these benefits. The report is available online at the following location: http://www.mejp.org/PDF/final_budget.pdf.
However, permanent residents who are eligible for these benefits (Food Supplement benefits, TANF, SSI and MaineCare) and have resided legally in the United States for less than five years, need to apply for these benefits before July 1st in order to receive them. This is also true for applicants for asylum. Otherwise, eligibility will end July 1st if no application is submitted. There are some exceptions made for hardships and children.
Should you be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship via naturalization at this time, this may be your best option to secure these benefits. Please note that in some circumstances, there may be risks associated with applying for naturalization; therefore, we would strongly suggest consulting with legal counsel to verify eligibility and discuss any potential complications.
Please contact us directly if you are interested in learning more about the naturalization process.
For more information regarding eligibility changes to State of Maine assistance programs, or to acquire an application for these benefits, please visit www.211maine.org or dial 2-1-1 (or 1-866-811-5695).