Officials in three Maine cities say they plan to defy the state and continue offering General Assistance welfare benefits to immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Officials from Portland, South Portland and Bangor said Tuesday they will continue to offer the temporary, emergency aid intended to help individuals and families who show financial need pay for housing, food and heat.

The Department of Health and Human Services formally notified cities and towns Monday that the state will no longer reimburse them for General Assistance to immigrants living in the country illegally and will begin auditing municipalities in October.

Commissioner Mary Mayhew said the move was made to comply with federal law and save about $1 million annually.

Critics of the move tell the Portland Press Herald it will create homelessness and hunger.