FPI Staff
February 2, 2020

What is the New ‘Public Charge’ Rule, and Who Will Be Affected?

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

The Supreme Court has decided to allow the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) new “public charge” rule to take effect while litigation is ongoing.  In a public charge determination, if DHS determines that an immigrant is “likely at any time to become a public charge” in the future, the department can deny them admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent residence (or “green card” status).  DHS’s new rule adds additional programs to the list of public benefits that can be considered in making a public charge determination.

Under the new rule, public benefits on this list now include:

  • Cash assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and general assistance programs;
  • Medicaid (with exceptions including coverage for emergency services, children under 21 years old, and pregnant women including 60 days of post-partum services);
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly called “food stamps”); and
  • Federal Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and Section 8 project-based rental assistance.

Many assistance programs are not included on DHS’s list, such as disaster relief; school breakfast and lunch; Women, Infants and Children (WIC); emergency medical assistance; AIDS Drug Assistance Program; and Energy Assistance (LIHEAP).

Additionally, in regard to the new rule:

  • Receiving public benefits will not automatically make a family a public charge.
  • The use of public benefits is only one factor that can be considered in determining whether an immigrant is likely to be a “public charge.”
  • Most immigrants in Florida who are subject to the public charge rule are not eligible for the programs listed in the rule.

The biggest threat from this new rule, however, is that unaffected families will be afraid to apply for free assistance they desperately need for themselves and their children.

There are low-cost and free immigration attorneys available in Florida to assist people who are in need of legal help to determine if they will be affected by this new rule.

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