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Change To Public Charge Means Immigrants Benefit

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Are you a US immigrant in need of food, housing, medical insurance, or other benefit assistance but fear this may affect your immigration status? You’ll be pleased to know that a change to the Public Charge in 2021 has lifted the restrictions to immigrants allowing them to safely access benefits. Despite this reform, many residents are confused with the policy and unsure if they can access benefits afforded to US citizens such as CalFresh, Medi-Cal, and free food services.

Immigrants (not including refugees, asylees, or survivors of trafficking, domestic violence and other serious crimes) must pass a Public Charge test to lawfully enter the US. Back in 2018 the Trump administration expanded the definition of the Public Charge to include cash and non-cash healthcare, food assistance, and housing programs. This restricted immigrants from applying for these benefits, since it could negatively impact their immigration status. On March 9, 2021, the Biden Administration and federal courts officially blocked the Trump administration’s harmful public charge regulations to allow immigrants and their families to safely access all health, nutrition, and housing programs (if they qualify) and with no consequences to their immigration status. Although the restrictions were reversed, many are confused and fearful, stopping eligible immigrants, US citizen children, and mixed status families from applying for safety net program. This is referred to as the Chilling Effect which is exacerbating the risk of hunger and poverty for immigrants during the pandemic.

According to a recent Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition Poll that surveyed 1,000 immigrants, 47% said they need benefit assistance and 13% are unsure. Additionally, 46% stated they did not apply for help due to immigration concerns. Furthermore, according to the Migration Policy Institute, 7.6 million children who are citizens of the United States could experience the Chilling Effects of confusion about the public charge rule.

Benefits that have NO Impact on Immigrant Status/NOT Part of the Public Charge:

The following are list of benefits to help you and your family thrive in your new homeland. Help Me Help You provides free enrollment assistance for most of these programs. Please click on the links for more information.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also known as CalFresh in California. CalFresh is a supplemental food program to help qualifying low-income individuals and families get the food they need to stay healthy. The CalFresh Benefit provides dollars via an EBT debit card to purchase groceries and fresh produce online and in-store at participating grocery stores (including Albertsons, Vons, Safeway, Walmart, and Amazon) and farmers’ markets. Qualifying for a CalFresh EBT debit card means you would also qualify for a number of other beneficial services to include:

  • ​National School Lunch Program for FREE/reduced prices of nutritious school meals and other services for school children

  • Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) provides grocery money to families with children that are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and missed school meals due to the pandemic.

  • Health & Wellness Services

  • Fee Waivers for College Apps, Admissions Tests

  • Discounted utility services, transportation, and more.

MediCal - California’s version of Medicaid/Medicare, provides comprehensive health insurance coverage at either free or low-cost. Children, pregnant women, and low-income families are eligible.

Food Pantries Help Me Help You provides free fresh and packaged groceries to all in need with no eligibility criteria via 10 Long Beach California locations (school and community locations.

Long Beach Food Pantry Delivery: Help Me Help You provides free weekly nutritious groceries home-delivered to seniors aged 60 or over (and over 50 with a health condition) in Long Beach, California.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides healthy food (such as fruits, vegetables, and baby food), nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and other free services for pregnant women, postpartum women, and children under the age of five.

Your family counts on you and you always do what it takes. Remember applying for these benefits will have NO immigration consequences for your or your family.

Established in 2002, Help Me Help You is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families in need by increasing access to food, public benefits, economic security, and social security benefits. HMHY provides life-changing services to more than 50,000 individuals annually, focusing on seniors; children; single mothers; disabled individuals; veterans; and the homeless. These services work to reduce hunger and poverty, improve nutrition and health, boost family economic security, as well as motivate and transition residents from lives of poverty to self-sufficiency. For more information or free enrollment assistance please visit or contact (562) 612-5001.

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