Answer: The proposed Public Charge rule is complex, but here is some basic information. First, you can refer people to the text of the proposed rule (although it is quite long): This was published on October 10, and people can submit comments on it until December 10.

As you noted, at this point it is only a proposed rule and does not have any legal effect currently. It’s also important to note that the rule does not affect U.S. citizen children of immigrant parents directly, although it could affect them indirectly by affecting their parents. The proposed rule would affect people who are applying for a visa or other legal status to enter the U.S., or who are requesting a change in their visa or immigration status in the U.S.

The Public Charge provision itself has been in effect for some time. It requires people applying to enter the U.S. to demonstrate they are unlikely to become a “public charge,” which means they are unlikely to receive various kinds of public benefits. There are exemptions to this requirement. The proposed rule would make changes to the provision to broaden the definition of “public benefits,” making it more difficult for people to demonstrate that they will not become a public charge.

The proposed rule appears NOT to include the following programs in the definition of “public benefit.” In other words, receiving these benefits would not count against a person applying for admission or a change of status in the U.S.:

  • School meals
  • McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth services
  • Title I and other “means-tested programs under the ESEA”
  • Immunization assistance
  • Foster care/adoption payments
  • Soup kitchens and food banks
  • Crisis counseling
  • DV services
  • Mental illness/substance abuse services
  • “Short-term shelter or housing assistance for the homeless, for victims of DV, or for runaway, abused, or abandoned children”
  • Any higher education assistance
  • Head Start
  • In-kind disaster relief
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act services

However, there are many programs included that will affect families, children and youth, including:

  • SNAP (although children under 18 are exempted)
  • TANF
  • Section 8 (housing choice and project-based)
  • Subsidized public housing
  • General Assistance (in states that offer GA)
  • Medicaid
  • SSI
  • CHIP (Children’s Medicaid— this program is not included in the proposed rule, but the agency is seeking comments about whether it should be included.)

Additional pieces of the rule that may be of interest to homeless liaisons include the following:

“Because of the nature of the public benefits that would be considered under this rule—which are generally means- tested and provide cash for income maintenance and for basic living needs such as food, medical care, and housing—DHS believes that receipt of such benefits even in a relatively small amount or for a relatively short duration would in many cases be sufficient to render a person a public charge.”

“By way of illustration, under the proposed policy, an alien’s receipt of Medicaid for 9 months and receipt of public housing for 6 months, if both occurred within the same 36-month period, would amount to 15 months of receipt of non-monetizable benefits, regardless of whether these periods of time overlapped, were consecutive, or occurred at different points in time during the 36-month period. As such, the receipt of those benefits would be considered for purposes of this rule.”

SchoolHouse Connection is likely to join other organizations in commenting on the rule, and publishing a brief once the rule is final.

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