Dec 22, 2022

Julia previously served as the Connelly Policy Advocate at CCLP, supporting CCLP's legal and legislative efforts to advance economic justice and racial equity in Colorado.

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

New Public Charge rule takes effect December 23

by | Dec 22, 2022

Some immigrants who apply for a green card or a visa to enter the United States must pass what’s called a “public charge” test. The test is designed to evaluate whether the person will primarily depend on the government for support in the future, based on factors such as the individual’s income, employment, and past use of certain public benefits.

On December 23, 2022, a new public charge rule goes into effect. The rule is hailed as a victory for immigrant communities. The new rule was finalized by the Biden Administration in September and replaces the longstanding public charge policy known as the 1999 Field Guidance.

The new public charge rule includes multiple wins for immigrants. The rule affirms that many immigrants are exempt from the public charge test. The rule also clarifies what is and is not considered in the public charge test, reaffirming that most public benefit use does not affect one’s chance of getting a green card or a visa. Finally, while U.S. public charge policies could change in the future, by putting these policies in rule, the Biden Administration has made it more difficult for future presidents to radically change public charge policy in a way that harms immigrant families.

Here are three things you need to know about public charge, adapted from the Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition.

1.     The public charge test does NOT apply to all immigrants.

Many immigrants are exempt from the public charge test. The public charge test does not apply to humanitarian immigrants, including refugees; asylees; survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, and other serious crimes; special immigrant juveniles; and certain individuals paroled into the U.S. The public charge test also does not apply to green card holders (a.k.a. legal permanent residents) who are renewing their green card or applying to become a U.S. citizen, unless they are planning to leave the country for more than 6 months, in which case they should speak with an immigration attorney. (For a complete list of immigrants who are exempted from public charge, see 87 Fed. Reg. 55637-9.)

2.     Many public benefits are NOT considered in the public charge test.

There are only two types of government programs that are considered in a public charge test:

  • Public cash assistance for income maintenance, which is regular cash support that is intended to support someone, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Colorado Works/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Old Age Pension (OAP). (Tax credits and supplemental or “special purpose” payments, like payments for child care, energy assistance, disaster relief, or pandemic assistance, are not)
  • Long-term institutional care, like nursing home care that is paid for by Medicaid. (Home- and community-based services, short-term rehabilitative care, and incarceration are not)

All other public benefits are NOT considered in a public charge test, including:

  • Health coverage (except for long-term institutional care), such as Medicaid, Emergency Medicaid, Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), and insurance and subsidies through Connect for Health Colorado and OmniSalud.
  • Food and nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), school lunch programs, and food banks.
  • Housing programs, such as Section 8 and public housing.
  • COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and treatment, and COVID-related supports, such as Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), stimulus payments, child tax credits, and emergency rental assistance.
  • Cash benefits based on work or earnings, such as Social Security, retirement, pensions, veterans benefits.

Additionally, the new rule makes it clear that only benefits used by the applicant will be considered in a public charge test; benefits received by a household member, such as an applicant’s U.S.-citizen child, will not be considered.

It’s also worth noting that most immigrants who are subject to the public charge test are not eligible for most of the benefits that are considered in the test. For example, at this time, undocumented immigrants, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, are not eligible for SSI, Colorado Works/TANF, or regular Medicaid.

Finally, even if someone is subject to public charge and has received one of the types of public benefits that may be considered in the public charge test, they may still be able to pass the public charge test. Immigration officials are required to look at all of an applicant’s circumstances, including not only past use of public benefits, but also one’s income, employment, education, health, family status, and affidavit of support from a sponsor. Past use of public benefits can therefore be outweighed by positive factors.

3.     We need to close the information gap.

While Trump-era public charge policies have been reversed and are no longer in effect, the chilling effect on immigrant communities continues, with many immigrants reluctant to access services available to them out of fear that doing so may jeopardize their immigration status.

Spreading accurate information about public charge is critical to ensuring that community members are able to make well-informed decisions and access the services and supports for which they’re eligible.

Want to spread the word in your community?

Find public charge resources for community members in nine different languages at https://pifcoalition.org/publiccharge2022, including:

Find public charge resources for advocates at https://pifcoalition.org/public-charge-advocates-resources, including:

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice and instead is for general informational purposes only. Though CCLP makes an effort to update information on this website with legal changes, the information here may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. This article was published on December 22, 2022, adapted from an article originally published on CCLP’s website on October 6, 2022.

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.