October 30, 2018

Proposed Change in Federal Public Charge Rule Would Cause 'Chilling Effect' for 1.6 Million Floridians, According to New Analysis

Proposed rule would hurt both citizens and non-citizens

LAKE MARY, FL – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s drastic proposed change to the “public charge rule” would have devastating effects on Florida families and could result in hundreds of millions in lost federal funds. The rule would deem people applying for a green card who have received or are likely to receive even a modest amount of non-cash supports as potentially unacceptable.

“Millions of families in the U.S. rely on critical poverty reduction programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and now the Administration now wants to use them as a disqualifier for people looking to make a better life for themselves and their families in America,” said Sadaf Knight, interim co-executive director of the Florida Policy Institute. “The rule will cause fear and confusion, ultimately driving families and children deeper into poverty.”

The Florida Policy Institute’s new policy brief uses an analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to examine what impact the proposed rule would have on Florida, with a focus on people who may experience a “chilling effect.” These are the people likely to be confused about whether they should apply for benefits if they qualify and who may decide not to apply for benefits altogether. Also included are people currently getting benefits who will likely disenroll due to fear of the consequences. For the purposes of the brief they are defined as everyone who lives in a family with at least one non-citizen immigrant and where someone in that family has received public benefits—Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or housing supports, for example.

The proposed rule would greatly expand the type of public benefits immigration officers consider to determine whether immigrants can support themselves in the United States.

The proposed rule would also for the first time make a specific income threshold a central issue in immigration decisions. Having an income of under $15,000 for a single person or $31,000 for a family of four would be weighed negatively and could lead to a denial. The only factor weighed as “heavily positive” is if an applicant has an income or resources of over $30,000 for a single person or $63,000 for a family of four. For comparison purposes, the median household income in Florida is $52,594, according to U.S. Census data.

The brief notes that:

  • In Florida, there are 580,000 children in families likely to experience a chilling effect— 480,000 citizen children and 100,00 non-citizens.
  • If only 15 percent of Floridians disenrolled from public benefit programs, it would cause a $400 million loss in federal funds for the state and a $742 million economic loss.

“The Florida Policy Institute strongly opposes the Administration’s proposed rule,” added Knight.

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