DHHS rule denying food assistance to unemployed legal immigrants challenged

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Maine Equal Justice and Drummond Woodsum team up
to challenge the DHHS rule denying food assistance to unemployed legal immigrants

In 2013, the Maine Legislature passed a law in the biennial budget to allow unemployed lawfully present immigrants who have their work authorization to get state-funded food assistance.  Lawmakers recognized that it can take some time to actually secure employment once an asylum seeker receives work authorization from the federal government.  The Legislature limited the funding during the biennium.  Once the funding ran out, DHHS stopped providing this assistance to people in this situation even though affected individuals remain eligible under the law.

Attorneys Melissa Hewey and Amy Olfene from the firm of Drummond Woodsum agreed to a pro bono partnership with Maine Equal Justice to bring a class action lawsuit.  The purpose of the suit is to challenge the DHHS rule and to restore eligibility for food assistance for asylum seekers as they seek employment.  On June 7, 2016 the Superior Court in Kennebec County heard arguments in the case.  We are awaiting a decision and will let you know the outcome.