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Government Benefits for Non-Citizens

Government Benefits for Non-Citizens

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Government Benefits for Non-Citizens

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  1. Government Benefitsfor Non-Citizens April 2013 Laura Melnick SMRLS 651-894-6932 laura.melnick@smrls.org

  2. Government Benefits for Non-Citizens • Welfare reform • Definitions: qualified and unqualified immigrants, “battered immigrants” 3. Sponsor-deeming 4. “SAVE” 5. Reporting to Immigration • Public charge considerations • 5-year Bar 8.Federal benefits: a. SSI b. SNAP (food stamps)

  3. 9. State and federal/state benefits a. cash and food: TANF – families (i)FSS(Family Stabilization Services) (ii)DWP(Diversionary Work) (iii)MFIP(MN Family Investment Prog.) (iv)WBP(Work Participation Cash Benes.) b. cash: adultsGA (General Assistance) c. cash:MSA(Minnesota Supplemental Assistance) d. emergencies:EA(Emergency Assistance), andEGA (Emergency GA) e.non-need-based:UI(Unemployment Insurance) f. foodMFAP(MN Food Assistance Prog.)

  4. g.health care (i)MA(Medical Assistance) (ii)EMA(Emergency MA) (iii)MinnesotaCare 10. other benefits 11. considerations for mixed-status households 12. scenarios

  5. 1. Welfare reform • enacted August 22, 1996 • replacedAFDC(family cash program) with “TANF” block grants to states • imposed lifetime limits on, and work requirements for, family cash assistance • eliminated SSI & food stamp eligibility for many non-citizens • required certain agencies to file reports with Immigration

  6. Post-1996 federal law changes (all good!) • ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION REFORM & IMMIGRANT RESPONSIBILITY ACT OF 1996 amended the definition of “Qualified Alien” to include a battered non-citizen. • BALANCED BUDGET ACT OF 1997 added groups of non-citizens eligible for SSI based on disability; extended 5-year window of benefits for refugees & asylees to 7 years. • 1998 AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH ACT restored food stamp eligibility to certain groups of legal immigrants.

  7. FARM BILL OF 2002 significantly broadened eligibility for food stamps for non-citizens beginning 2003. • SSI EXTENSION FOR ELDERLY AND DISABLED REFUGEES ACT OF 2008 allowed certain humanitarian immigrants an additional 2-3 years of SSI.

  8. 2. DefinitionsDefinitions used to determine eligibility forFEDERALbenefits.“QUALIFIED” NON-CITIZENS • lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) • “refugees,” including Haitian, Cuban, and Amerasian immigrants • granted asylum • granted parol • conditional entrants (granted before 4/1/80) • deportation withheld or removal cancelled • granted T-Visa • “battered immigrants”

  9. “UNQUALIFIED” NON-CITIZENS • have no documentation • have expired documentation • have applied for suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal • have applications pending for adjustment or asylum • are lawful temporary residents under an amnesty program • are non-immigrants (with temporary protected status; or student, visitor, or temporary worker visas) • have U-visas (for crime victims) • have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

  10. “BATTERED IMMIGRANTS”Immigrants who meet definition can qualify forrangeof federal and state-funded government benefits but mustwait 5 yearsforSNAP, SSI or federally-funded MA: • Applicant must have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in U.S. by U.S. citizen or LPR parent, spouse, or relative who resided in same household as victim, AND • applicant must no longer live with abuser, AND • applicant’s need for benefits must be “substantially connected” to abuse,AND

  11. applicant must either: • be the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen AND have petitioned for adjustment of status under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA); OR • be the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen OR LPR AND have petitioned for cancellation of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

  12. 3. Sponsor-deemingattribution of income from sponsor to immigrantcan make certain immigrants COMPLETELY INELIGIBLE for almost all types of public assistance! • 1996 welfare reform law required sponsor-deeming. • Deeming pursuant to 1996 law change began onDecember 19, 1997with creation of “Affidavit of Support” forms (formI-864). • Deeming applies only to family-based immigrants (immigrants arriving through petition from family member).

  13. Deeming does NOT apply to: • refugees • asylees • parolees • diversity visa (visa lottery) recipients • Cuban/Haitian entrants • immigrants with Temporary Protected Status • lawfully[-residing immigrant children under 18 (forSNAP and MAonly) • pregnant women (for MAonly)

  14. How deeming works • Generally, 100% of income & assets of sponsor AND sponsor’s spouse are considered fully available to immigrant. (For SNAP, deeming is a little less harsh). • Sponsor’s family size & fixed debts are irrelevant. • Burden of proving sponsor has little income is on immigrant applying for public assistance. • Income and assets are deemed until: immigrant becomes U.S. citizen, works 10 years at Social Security-covered work; or dies; OR sponsor permanently leaves U.S. or dies. • Divorce from sponsor has no effect on deeming.

  15. Whether deeming will affect people other than sponsored immigrant will vary depending on type of assistance program. • In TANF (MFIP family cash program), and for MinnesotaCare, income is deemed to all members of “assistance unit.” • In MA, income and assets are deemed only to immigrant, not to household members.

  16. Exceptions to deeming2 exceptions allow immigrants subject to deeming to get benefits without regard to sponsors’ income and assets:A. Indigence exception: • Sponsor-deeming will NOT apply if welfare agency determines that, as a result of sponsor’s failure to support, immigrant is without food or shelter. • Govt. can provide benefits for up to 12 months, with 12-month renewals available. • Govt. can sue sponsor for benefits provided to immigrant. (Immigrant can sue sponsor, too).

  17. B. Battered spouse/child exception • Sponsor-deeming will NOT apply for 12 months if immigrant or child has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by spouse or parent, or by a relative of spouse or parent residing in same household. Full range of state-funded benefits is available. • Immigrant cannot have participated in abuse of child. • Immigrant must show that battery or cruelty is substantially connected to need for benefits. • After 12 months, exemption will end unless battery was perpetrated by sponsor AND has been recognized in a court order (such as an Order for Protection) or determination by Immigration. • Govt. can sue sponsor for benefits provided to immigrant. (Again, immigrant can also sue).

  18. Benefits to which deeming applies Deeming applies to: • cash programs: SSI, MSA, GA, MFIP, EA • food programs: SNAP for adults and for U.S. citizen children; MFAP • health care programs: MA, MinnesotaCare Deeming doesNOTapply to: • EMA(Emergency Medical Assistance) • MAfor pregnant women and children • SNAP for immigrant children

  19. Special 3-year deeming for MFIP • There is a special 3-year deeming provision in state law for MFIP only. • This deeming applies to immigrants who came to U.S. through means other than a relative petition (such as a diversity visa). • It does not apply to refugees or asylees. • Deeming under this program takes into account the sponsor’s family size and support obligations.

  20. 4.“SAVE”Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements • Inter-agency governmental information-sharing program • Used to verify immigration status for public assistance and public housing • NOT used for reporting immigration status (or lack thereof) to Immigration

  21. 5. Reporting to Immigrationrequirement stems from 1996 welfare reform lawWHO IS REQUIRED TO REPORT?Only: • agencies receiving “TANF” funds (in Minnesota, that means county agencies administeringMFIPfamily cash benefits) • Social Security Administration • public housing agencies contracting with HUD

  22. WHAT MUST BE REPORTED? • names, addresses, and other “identifying information” ON • anyone the worker “knows” is unlawfully in the U.S.

  23. Reporting in Minnesotaprotocols require that agencies: • report toMDHSrather than to Immigration • notverify status if not relevant to benefit being sought • stop inquiringabout status when applicants are unwilling/unable to verify • interpret “knowledge” very narrowly • comply strictly with data privacy laws

  24. 6. Public charge considerations • Receiving/having dependents receive certain public benefits may affectability to adjustto LPR status. • Benefits subject to public charge considerations are: • cash benefits:MFIP,DWP,SSI,MSA,GA • long-term medical care (nursing home care) • Benefits not considered include health care, WIC, public health services, housing and energy assistance, & other non-cash & special-purpose cash benefitsnot intended for income maintenance. • Receipt ofSNAP or state-funded food support should not be a factor for public charge determinations.

  25. 7. “5-year bar” • A 5-year “bar” prevents immigrants from receiving federal benefits during their first 5 years in “qualified” status. • Benefits affected are SSI, SNAP, and federally-funded MFIP and MA. • During the 5-year period, immigrants may receive state-funded benefits if they are eligible for them and such benefits are available.

  26. BENEFITS! 8. Federal benefits: a. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

  27. Social Security administers 2 types of disability benefits: • SSI, for low-income, low-asset individuals. Recipients must be too disabled to work or age 65 or older. • SSDI, for people too disabled to work who meet earnings requirements by having paid into system via FICA wage deductions.

  28. To qualify for SSI, non- citizen applicants must: • be defined as “qualified” non-citizens under federal law; AND • meet certain residency requirements.

  29. SSI residency issues:A. immigrants here before welfare reform non-citizens who were Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) in the U.S. before August 22, 1996: • if onSSI on8/22/96, they can keep gettingSSIfor as long as they remain elderly or disabled. • if not onSSIon8/26/96,they can getSSInow if they are: • “qualified”non-citizensAND • disabled. • TheycannotgetSSIbased onage(over 65).

  30. Immigrants arriving after welfare reform For non-citizens who came to the U.S.after August 22, 1996, or who adjusted status to LPR after that date: • “unqualified”non-citizenscannotgetSSI. • Interestingly, most“qualified”non-citizens alsocannotget SSI. There are 3 exceptions.

  31. Exceptions to ban on SSIfor newer legal immigrantsImmigrants arriving after August 22, 1996 • 1) Those granted refugee, asylee, or withholding status can get SSI for 7 years after grant of status. Certain humanitarian immigrants got additional 2-3 years of SSI; extension law ended 9/30/11. • 2)U.S. veterans & active-duty members of U.S. armed forces, & their spouses and minor children, can get SSIwithout time limits. Hmong soldiers who fought with the CIA in the Vietnam War are not considered “U.S. veterans.” • 3)Non-citizens who haveworked at least 40 work quarters (10 years) can getSSIwithout time limits, but they are subject to the 5-year bar on benefits.

  32. Note about “40 work quarters” exception: • Only work where FICA taxes have been deducted from pay counts toward the 40-quarter requirement. • Quarters can be attributed fromspouse to spouseand fromparent to minor child. Minor children can carry parents’ quarters with them into adulthood. • Any quarters worked after December 31, 1996 in which federal “need-based” benefits (AFDC, MFIP, SNAP, SSI, MA) were received by the household do not count as quarters.

  33. Sponsor-deeming and Social Security Because SSI is a need-based program, sponsor-deeming may preclude eligibility. Because SSDI is not need-based, sponsor-deeming does not apply.

  34. b. SNAP • Except when sponsor-deeming applies, all “qualified” non-citizens are potentially eligible forSNAP. • Applicants may have to wait 5yearsto get SNAP benefits.

  35. Non-citizens exempt from the 5-year bar for SNAP(and therefore eligible immediately) are: • refugees, asylees, & those grantedwithholding of deportation • U.S. veterans & active-duty members of U.S. armed forces (& their spouses and unmarried dependents) • elderly immigrants who were “lawfully residing” in U.S. AND age 65 or older as of August 22, 1996 • legal immigrants certified disabled by State or SSA • legal immigrants under age 18 • Hmong & Highland Laotian immigrants

  36. 9. State (and federal/state) benefitsrequirement for all state funded benefits: “steps”toward citizenship • Most recipients of state-funded assistance (including state-funded MFIP and GA) must take “steps” toward obtaining citizenship. • Immigrants don’thave to take such steps if they: • have legally resided in U.S.fewer than 4 years; • areage 70or older;OR • are living in anursing home, group home, or similar type of facility.

  37. “Steps”toward citizenship Recipients of state-funded assistance required to take “steps” toward citizenship can meet the requirements by: • taking citizenship, literacy, or ESL classes • being on waiting list for such classes • having application for citizenship on file • being in process of applying for a waiver of certain test requirements • having failed citizenship test at least twice or being unable to understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

  38. “Lawfully residing people” Certain people here on a non-permanent basis who are not eligible for federal benefits may qualify for state-funded benefits (GA, MFAP, state-funded MFIP), including: • Lawful Temporary Residents • those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) • applicants for asylum who have employment authorization • spouses or children of U.S. citizens with approved visa petition or pending application for adjustment to LPR.

  39. Victims of Trafficking: T Visas • Victims of trafficking who have “T” visas are eligible for both federal and state-funded benefits to the extent that refugees are eligible. • To qualify, T visa holders must get certification from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

  40. Crime Victims: U Visas • Crime victimswho are recipients of“U” Visasare not eligible for federally-funded benefits; the U Visa is a “non-immigrant” visa. • U Visa holders are not specifically eligible for state-funded cash or food benefits, either. • They have been determined by the state to qualify MinnesotaCare. • According to state policy, they are potentially eligible for state-funded food benefits (MFAP). • State policy is silent regarding the holders of U Visas’ eligibility for cash assistance (GA,MFIP). • U Visarecipients should argue they qualify for state-funded cash benefits as“lawfully residing people.”

  41. DACA recipients • Those grantedDeferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)are not considered “lawfully residing” for MA purposes, according to HHS. • Theyshouldqualify for MinnesotaCare.

  42. cash & food: TANF(i)FSS– Family Support Services(ii)DWP– Diversionary Work Program(iii)MFIP– Minnesota Family Investment Prog.(iv) WBP – Work Participation Cash Benefits • MFIP, DWP, FSS & WBPare TANF (temporary assistance for needy families) programs that have replaced AFDC. • They provide cash assistance to families with minor children. Cash grants for MFIP, DWP &FSSare very low: $437 for a household of 2, $532 for 3, $621 for 4, $697 for 5, etc. • Adults without minor children are not eligible for FSS, DWP, MFIP or WBP.

  43. Non-citizen eligibility for FSS, DWP, MFIP & WBP • Most legal non-citizens permanently in the U.S. are eligible for FSS, DWP, MFIP or WBP if they meet the other criteria, whether “qualified” or “unqualified” under federal law. • Certain non-citizens can only get state-fundedFSS, DWP, MFIP or WBP. (Eligibility depends on date of arrival in U.S. and immigration category, due to 5-year bar). • Since 1/1/08, newly arrived immigrants (here < 1 year) are exempt from DWP. • Recipients of state-funded benefits must take “steps” toward citizenship. • Sponsor-deeming may preclude eligibility.

  44. MFIP & DWP work plans & ESL Most MFIP recipients have to work, unless exempted. • Counties may allow non-English speakers to include ESL in their job search & work plans if spoken language proficiency level is low enough, based on standardized testing. • MFIP recipients may fulfill only halfof work participation requirements through attendance at ESL classes, unless they’re taking intensive functional work literacy. • MFIP & DWP recipients may include ESL in their work plans for a total of only 24 months (out of 60).

  45. b. cash: General Assistance (GA) • GAis a state-funded program for low-income, low-asset individuals not living with minor children. • GA is also for minor children whose adult caregivers don’t qualify for MFIP due to relationship status. • GApays only $203 per month for an individual and $260 for a married couple.

  46. Legal immigrants residing in the U.S. permanently (or with a pending application for adjustment) may getGAif they meet other eligibility criteria. • If under 70 and here at least 4 years, they must take steps toward citizenship. • Sponsor-deeming may preclude eligibility.

  47. c. Cash:Minnesota Supplemental Assistance(MSA) • MSA is a state supplement for recipients ofSSIor people who would receiveSSIbut for excess income. • MSAserves to ameliorate the effects of high housing costs. • SSI recipients living in “shared households” are usually ineligible forMSA. • The averageMSAsupplement is $81. • Non-citizen recipients must take “steps” toward citizenship, and sponsor-deeming may preclude eligibility.

  48. d. cash: EA andEGA Emergency Assistance (EA) and Emergency GA (EGA) are designed to prevent destitution, providing cash grants to resolve crises. • BothEA and EGA are now funded through block grants from the State, so individual counties have a great deal of discretion in administering benefits. • Legal, permanent residents are eligible forEAandEGA to the same extent (and subject to the same limitations) as U.S. citizens. • Sponsor-deeming may preclude eligibility, but applicants may qualify for the indigence exception.

  49. e. non-need-based cash: Unemployment Unemployment Insurance - ”UI” UIbenefits can be paid if the worker was: • lawfully admitted for permanent residence at the time of the employment; • lawfully present for purposes of the employment; OR • permanently residing in the U.S. under color of law at the time of the employment. Work done before gaining legal status does not count toward earnings requirements. UIbenefits are not need-based and therefore are not subject to sponsor-deeming.

  50. f. Food MFAP– Minnesota Food Assistance Program • Legal, permanent non-citizens not on MFIP who have been here fewer than 5 years (& therefore may be subject to the bar on SNAP) may qualify for food benefits through MFAP. • MFAPbenefits are available only to thoseage 50and older. • The MFAP program follows federal SNAP regulations. • MFAPrecipients may be subject to sponsor-deeming.