Public Charge

The current Administration has proposed changes to a rule called “public charge” that would punish immigrants who receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), even though they are eligible for it, by jeopardizing their ability to stay in the United States.

What is the Public Charge Rule?

Public Charge is a term used to describe someone who may utilize public benefits in the future through a Totality of Circumstance (TOC) test. The TOC is an assessment of how likely that person is to be dependent on the government in the future. The TOC factors in more than the use of public benefits, by assessing the individuals’ circumstance regarding their age, health, family status, education, financial status, and skills with an evaluation of positive or negative factors. If a person is deemed likely to become a public charge, they will be denied a visa, admission to the United States, or legal permanent residency.

This final rule for public charge is scheduled to be in effect beginning October 15th, 2019. For more information, visit protectingimmigrantfamilies.org.

If you have questions about your specific situation, we encourage you to consult an immigration attorney who is familiar with this issue. For free or low-cost options, visit Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative or Immigration Advocates Network.

A public charge assessment is made when a person:

  • Applies to enter the U.S.
  • Applies to adjust status to become a green card holder, or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
  • A green card holder leaves the U.S. for more than 180 consecutive days (6 months) and reenters

Examples of who a public charge will NOT apply to:

  • Lawful permeant residents, or green card holders, who are applying for citizenship
  • Refugees and Asylees
  • Family members who use benefits, such as children and spouses
  • VAWA Self- Petitioners
  • Survivors of Domestic Violence, Trafficking, or Other Serious Crimes (U or T visa applicants/holders)
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles
  • Certain Parolees, and various other categories of non-citizens

The test attempts to answer the question: Is the person likely to rely on cash or long-term care in the future?

Public Benefits that WILL be assessed for in the NEW Public Charge test:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • TANF cash assistance
  • Social Security Income (SSI)
  • Any federal, state, or local cash benefit programs
  • Section 8 housing assistance, or any federal public housing
  • Medicaid used by the individual (as well as those who reside in a long-term care institution from Medicaid use)

Public Benefits regarding Medicaid NOT included in the test:

  • Medicare part D
  • Emergency services through Medicaid
  • Children under 21 using Medicaid
  • Pregnant Women and new mothers (60 days after birth) using Medicaid

Food and Nutrition Services NOT included in the test:

  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • School Breakfast Program (SBP)
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
  • Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
  • And any private charity such as food banks, shelters, and many more

Regardless of immigration status, these programs are safe for any eligible person to access.

November 2018

Our Position

Houston Food Bank strongly opposes the proposed public charge rule that would make it difficult for immigrant families and children to access life-sustaining health and human service programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). We oppose punishing immigrant individuals and families who are in the process of becoming citizens for trying to access food. We call on our community members to take action and submit a comment to the Federal Register before the proposed changes become policy. Read more of Houston Food Bank’s opposition to the proposed public charge rule.

Take Action

This comment period has ended for this rule. The final rule for public charge is scheduled to be in effect beginning October 15th, 2019. For more resources and ways to remain informed, please visit ProtectingImmigrantFamilies.org.

If you have questions about your specific situation, we encourage you to consult an immigration attorney who is familiar with this issue. For free or low-cost options, visit Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative or Immigration Advocates Network.

For questions regarding Public Charge, please contact:

Melanie Pang
Government Relations Officer
832-369-9270