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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 October 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 cash and food benefits: a. SSI b. SNAP (food stamps)

  3. 9. State and federal/state cash & food benefits a. cash and food: TANF – families (i)FSS(Family Stabilization Services) (ii)DWP(Diversionary Work) (iii)MFIP(MN Family Investment Program) (iv)WB(Work Participation Cash Benes.) b. cash: GA (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 Program)

  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 (“Restricting Welfare and Public Benefits for Aliens” provision) • required certain agencies to file reports with Immigration

  6. Post-1996 federal law changes (all good!) • IIRIRA - ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION REFORM & IMMIGRANT RESPONSIBILITY ACT OF 1996 • amended definition of “Qualified Alien”to include battered non-citizen. • (BUT – clarified that SSDI & retirement benefits could not be paid to anyone not “lawfully present” in US) • BBA - BALANCED BUDGET ACT OF 1997 • broadened eligibility for SSI based on disability; • extended SSI window for refugees, asylees to 7 years; • treated Amerasian immigrants as refugees; • broadened “qualified” definition to include certain Indians born in Canada; & • added surviving spouses to US vet exception.

  7. 1998 AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH ACT restored food stamp eligibility to certain groups of legal immigrants (those receiving disability benefits,elderly, under 18, Hmong/Laotian); also extended window for refugees, asylees to 7 years (from 5). • FARM BILL OF 2002 significantly broadened eligibility for food stamps for non-citizens beginning 2003 (allowed all “qualified” non-citizens to get food stamps5 years after arrival; eliminated 5-year wait for certain groups). • SSI EXTENSION FOR ELDERLY AND DISABLED REFUGEES ACT OF 2008 allowed certain humanitarian immigrants an additional 2-3 years of SSI past their “window.”

  8. 2. Definitionsfor eligibility forFEDERALbenefits.“QUALIFIED” NON-CITIZEN • lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) • “refugee,” including Haitian, Cuban, & Amerasian • granted asylum or parol • granted conditional entry before 4/1/80 • deportation withheld or removal cancelled • granted T-Visa • “battered immigrant”

  9. “UNQUALIFIED” NON-CITIZENS • expired or no documentation • pending application for adjustment, asylum, suspension of deportation, or cancellation of removal • lawful temporary resident under amnesty program • non-immigrant (temporary protected status, or student, visitor, or temporary worker visa) • U-visa (crime victim) • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA)

  10. “BATTERED IMMIGRANTS”can qualify forrange of federal & state-funded benefits but mustwait 5 yearsforSNAP, SSI, MA: • must have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in U.S. by U.S. citizen or LPR parent, spouse, or relative in same household, AND • must no longer live with abuser, AND • need for benefits must be “substantially connected” to abuse, AND

  11. applicant must either: • be spouse or child of U.S. citizen AND have petitioned for adjustment of status under Violence against Women Act (VAWA); OR • be spouse or child of U.S. citizenORLPRAND have petitioned for cancellation of removal under 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! • Requirement imposed by 1996 welfare reform law. • Began December 19, 1997with implementation of “Affidavit of Support” form (formI-864). • Applies only to family-based immigrants (immigrants arriving through petition from family member) & immigrants who come to US to work in family-owned business).

  13. Deeming does NOT apply to: • refugees, asylees, parolees • diversity visa (visa lottery) recipients • Cuban/Haitian entrants • people granted Temporary Protected Status • children under 18 (forSNAP and MAonly) • pregnant women (MA& MinnesotaCare only)

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

  15. Whether deeming will affect people other than sponsored immigrant varies by type of assistance program. • In MFIP & other family cash programs, & for MinnesotaCare, income is deemed to all members of “assistance unit.” • In MA, income & assets are deemed only to sponsored immigrant.

  16. 2 exceptions to deeming: • Indigence exception: • Sponsor-deeming will NOT apply if welfare agency determines that, as result of sponsor’s failure to support, immigrant is without food and shelter. • 12-month renewals available. • Govt. can sue sponsor for reimbursement. (Immigrant can sue sponsor, too, for non-support).

  17. B. Battered spouse/child exception • Deeming will NOT apply if immigrant or child is battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by spouse or parent, or by relative of spouse or parent in same household. • Immigrant can’t have participated in abuse of child. • Immigrant must show that battery or cruelty is substantially connected to need for benefits. • Exception ends after 12 months, UNLESSbattery was perpetrated by sponsor AND is recognized in court order (OFP, etc.) or USCIS determination. • Government can sue for reimbursement; immigrant can sue for non-support.

  18. Deeming applies to: • cash programs: SSI, MSA, GA, MFIP, EA • food programs: SNAP for adults; MFAP • health care programs: MA, MinnesotaCare Deeming doesNOTapply to: • EMA(Emergency Medical Assistance) • MA &MinnesotaCarefor pregnant women & children • SNAP for children • Basic Sliding Fee child care • SSDI • UI

  19. Special 3-year deeming for MFIP • 3-year deeming in state law for MFIP only. • Applies only to those who came to U.S. through means other than relative petition (such as diversity visa). • Does not affect refugees or asylees. • Takes into account sponsor’s family size & support obligations.

  20. 4.“SAVE”Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements • Inter-agency governmental information-sharing program • Used to verify immigration status for public assistance & 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 MN, that means county agencies administeringMFIP& DWP benefits) • Social Security Administration • public housing agencies contracting with HUD

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

  23. Reporting in Minnesota protocols 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” • Receiving/having dependents receive certain benefits may affectability to adjustto LPR status. • Benefits considered are: • cash benefits:MFIP,DWP,SSI,MSA,GA • long-term medical care (nursing home care) • Benefits not considered include health care, WIC, housing & energy assistance, & benefitsnot intended for income maintenance. • Receipt ofSNAP or state-funded food support not a factor for public charge determinations.

  25. 7. “5-year bar” • 5-year“bar”prevents immigrants from receivingfederalbenefits during first 5 years in “qualified” status. • Benefits affected are SSI, SNAP, MA, & federally-funded MFIP. • During 5-year wait period, immigrants may receive state-funded benefitsif eligible for them (& such benefits exist).

  26. BENEFITS! 8. Federal cash & food 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 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: • meet definition of “qualified” non-citizens under federal law; AND • meet certain residency requirements.

  29. SSI residency issues:A. immigrants lawfully residing in U.S. before welfare reform (8/22/96) • if onSSI on8/22/96, can keep gettingSSIas long as elderly or disabled. • if not on SSIon8/26/96,can getSSInow if: • “qualified”AND • disabled. • Can’tgetSSIbased onage(over 65).

  30. B. arriving after welfare reform(coming to U.S. or adjusting to LPR status after8/22/96) • If “unqualified,”can’tgetSSI. • Even if “qualified,”probably can’tget SSI. There are 3 exceptions.

  31. Exceptions to SSI ineligibiity: • 1)refugees, asylees, & those granted withholding: 7 year window of eligibility (from date of grant of status). • 2) U.S. veterans, active-duty members of U.S. armed forces, & spouses or minor children of vets & active duty members: no time limits, not subject to 5-year bar. Hmong soldiers who fought with the CIA in Vietnam War not considered “U.S. veterans.” • 3)workers (or those credited with at least 40 work quarters): no time limits, but 5-year bar applies.

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

  33. Sponsor-deeming and Social Security Because SSI is 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. SNAP exemptions from 5-year bar • refugees, asylees, & those grantedwithholding of deportation • U.S. veterans & active-duty members of U.S. armed forces (& their spouses & unmarried dependents) • elderly immigrants who were “lawfully residing” in U.S. AND at least 65 on 8/22/96 • disabled (certified by State or SSA) • under age 18 • Hmong or Highland Lao

  36. 9. State (and federal/state) cash & food benefitsrequirement for all state cash & food benefits: “steps”toward citizenship • Most recipients of state-funded assistance must take “steps” toward obtaining citizenship. • They don’thave to take such steps if: • legally residing in U.S.fewer than 4 years; • areage 70or older;OR • living in nursing home, group home, or similar facility.

  37. “Steps”toward citizenship “steps” = • taking citizenship, literacy, or ESL class • being on wait list for ESL or literacy class • having application for citizenship on file • applying for waiver of citizenship test requirements • having failed citizenship test at least twice or being unable to understand rights & responsibilities of citizenship.

  38. “Lawfully residing people” Some non-citizens not eligible for federal benefits may get state-funded benefits: • Lawful Temporary Residents • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients • applicants for asylum or withholding who have employment authorization • spouses or children of U.S. citizens with approved visa petition or pending application for adjustment to LPR • Others permitted to stay in US for humanitarian or public policy reasons. (Category includes Deferred Enforced Departure [DED], deferred action, voluntary departure)

  39. Victims of Trafficking: T Visas • Victims of trafficking who have “T” visas are eligible for both federal and state-funded benefits to 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 victimrecipients of“U” Visasare not eligible for federally-funded benefits; U Visa is “non-immigrant” visa. • U Visa holders are not eligible for state-funded cash benefits. • They are eligible for MinnesotaCare. • They are eligible for state-funded food benefits (MFAP) if they meet categorical eligibility requirements.

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

  42. cash & food: TANF(i)FSS– Family Support Services(ii)DWP– Diversionary Work Program(iii)MFIP– Minnesota Family Investment Prog.(iv) WB – Work Participation Cash Benefits • MFIP, DWP, FSS & WB = 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 WB.

  43. FSS, DWP, MFIP & WB • Mostnon-citizens here lawfully & permanently can get family cash benefits if categorically eligible, whether “qualified” or “unqualified” under federal law. • Certain non-citizens can only get state-fundedbenefits. (Eligibility depends on date of arrival in U.S. & immigration category). • Newly-arrived (here < 1 year) are exempt from DWP. • State-funded benefit recipients 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 job search & work plans if spoken language proficiency level low enough on standardized testing. • MFIP recipients may fulfill only halfof work participation requirements through ESL, unless taking intensive functional work literacy. • MFIP & DWP recipients may include ESL in work plans for total of only 24 months (out of 60).

  45. b. cash: General Assistance (GA) • GAis 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 $203 per month for individual & $260 for married couple.

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

  47. c. Cash:Minnesota Supplemental Assistance(MSA) • MSA is state supplement for recipients ofSSI(or those who would receiveSSIbut for excess income). • MSAserves to ameliorate high housing costs. • SSI recipients living in “shared households” usually ineligible forMSA. • AverageMSAsupplement = $81. • Non-citizens must take “steps” toward citizenship, & sponsor-deeming may preclude eligibility.

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

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

  50. f. FoodMFAP– MN Food Assistance Program • Legal, permanent non-citizens not on MFIP here < 5 years (who may be subject to 5-year bar on SNAP) may get food assistance through MFAP. • MFAPbenefits available only to thoseage 50& up. • MFAP program follows federal SNAP regulations. • MFAPrecipients may be subject to sponsor-deeming.