We support and applaud changes in the policy that:
- would decrease or eliminate unnecessary burdens on applicants, adjudicators, and benefits-granting agencies and mitigate the possibility of widespread “chilling effects” with respect to individuals disenrolling or declining to enroll themselves or family members in public benefits programs for which they are eligible. We especially note that this can support individuals who are not subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility.
clarify that an individual will not be considered to have received benefits if they simply apply for benefits for themselves or another, and are approved for future use of benefits for themselves or another. Clarifying that receipt of benefits solely by another does not constitute receipt for the applicant is important.
offer a clear statement that children’s receipt of benefits, whether through their parents or not, will not count towards their parents’ public charge determination.
includes clear language in the NPRM stating that DHS will consider the totality of the circumstances, and that an applicant’s use of benefits and any statutory factor (other than insufficient affidavit of support required) are not dispositive for determining whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge.
set a standard, which DHS is proposing, that does not exclude people simply because they use government benefits to meet some and not all needs, clarifying that they are not primarily dependent on the government.
establish that including non-cash benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP and housing assistance in the inadmissibility determination would have a chilling effect on critical health care services including vaccination, testing, and treatment of COVID-19; would exacerbate ongoing challenges in vulnerable communities; and would be particularly harmful to children. We applaud the Department for recognizing these impacts and acknowledging the communities most affected by them.
- While we urge rapid publication and finalization of the rule, we would also like to offer a few recommendations to strengthen the proposal.