Know Your Rights: Understand Public Charge

Know Your Rights: Understand Public Charge

By Maria Gomez

For those of you who are not familiar with public charge, this rule has existed for over a hundred years to identify individuals who may depend on government public benefits as their main source of support.

With good reasons, many community members don’t completely understand how and if this policy affects them. The new proposed changes to the public charge policy are intentionally confusing and encourage immigrants to consider dropping all public benefits they are entitled to receive. 

In order to address the major points of this rule, please read below where I answer some of the most frequently asked questions community members ask.  

Also, keep in mind that benefits received before the policy goes into effect on October 15th, 2019 are not subject to public charge determination. This policy is being challenged by many courts and so there’s still hope that it will not be implemented. 

Who will not be affected?

  • Undocumented individuals do not qualify for any of the programs under Public Charge and therefore will not be affected by this rule. 
  • Undocumented individuals with US citizen children will not be affected if they apply for benefits for their children.
  • Legal Green Card holders will notbe affected when applying for citizenship.
  • Some immigrants, such as refugees, survivors of domestic violence, and certain other protected groups, are not subject to public charge determinations. 
  • The regulation will also exclude benefits received by active duty service members, their spouses, and their children. 

What Programs Are NotConsidered Under Public Charge?

  • Medicaid for emergency services and coverage of pregnant women and children under age 21
  • WIC Program
  • School meals 
  • Childcare subsidy
  • State or locally funded non-cash benefits such as DC Healthcare Alliance, Montgomery Cares and Care for Kids (in MoCo), and nutrition programs
  • Pell Grants (federal subsidy to help students pay for college)

What Programs Are Considered Under Public Charge?

  • Regular Medicaid 
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Public Housing
  • Section 8 housing vouchers and Project-Based Section 8
  • Cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Government-funded long-term institutional care, which refers to specific benefits authorized in the Social Security Act.

Who will be affected most under this new ruling?

  • Individuals waiting for a green card (permanent residency) will be affected by the public charge rule. Low income individuals and poor health conditions will be counted against someone applying for a green card. Individuals under these circumstances should seek legal help immediately. 

Once again, remember that benefits received before the policy goes into effect on October 15th, 2019 are not subject to public charge determination.

I want to stress that government programs and services are designed to give you and your family the support you need to move up the economic ladder. Using public benefits that you are eligible for can put you on the path to becoming healthier, stronger, and a more employable member of our community. I hope that this information will enable you to seek the help you need rather than to live in fear of current policies. 

However, if you still have questions or concerns, our social workers will be happy to meet with you to help you make a more informed decision.  

Above all, I want you to know that we will continue to support you and the entire community by providing the services and resources you need to continue to live a healthy, happy, and safe life. 

Maria Gomez
Maria Gomez, President and CEO
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