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Government Benefits for Non-Citizens. February 2010 Laura Melnick SMRLS 651-222-5863 laura.melnick@smrls.org. Government Benefits for Non-Citizens. Welfare reform Definitions Sponsor-deeming “SAVE” Reporting to Immigration Public charge considerations 7. FEDERAL BENEFITS: a. SSI

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Government Benefits for Non-Citizens


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    1. Government Benefitsfor Non-Citizens February 2010 Laura Melnick SMRLS 651-222-5863 laura.melnick@smrls.org

    2. Government Benefits for Non-Citizens • Welfare reform • Definitions • Sponsor-deeming • “SAVE” • Reporting to Immigration • Public charge considerations 7. FEDERAL BENEFITS: a. SSI b. food stamps

    3. 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)WB (Work Participation Cash Benes.) b. cash: adultsGA(General Assistance) c. emergenciesEA(Emergency Assistance). d.non-need-based:UI(Unemployment Insurance) e. foodMFAP(MN Food Assistance Prog.)

    4. f.health care(i)MA(Medical Assistance)(ii)GAMC (General Assistance Medical Care)(iii)EMA(Emergency MA)(iv)MinnesotaCare9.other benefits10.considerations for mixed-status households11.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!) • 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. • 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.

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

    8. “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)

    9. “BATTERED IMMIGRANTS”Immigrants who meet definition can qualify for range of federal and state-funded government benefits but must wait 5 years for food stamps or SSI: • 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

    10. 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).

    11. 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).

    12. Deeming does NOT apply to: • refugees • asylees • diversity visa (visa lottery) recipients • immigrants with Temporary Protected Status • legal immigrant children under 18 (forfood stampsonly)

    13. How deeming works • Generally, 100% of income & assets of sponsor AND sponsor’s spouse are considered fully available to immigrant. (For food stamps, 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.

    14. Whether deeming will affect people other than sponsored immigrant will vary depending on type of assistance program. • For example, in TANF programs, deference is given to statesto define assistance unit, affecting the reach of deeming. • In Minnesota, where all siblings, half-siblings, and their parents must be included in same MFIP assistance unit, MFIP deeming may have a fairly broad reach: income attributed 100% to immigrant may then be attributed to immigrant’s spouse, child, etc.

    15. Exceptions to deeming2 exceptions allow immigrants subject to deeming to get benefits without regard to their sponsors’ income and assets:A. Indigence exception: • Sponsor-deeming will NOT apply if welfare agency determines that immigrant will go hungry or become homeless without benefit. (Immigrant can get food and cash, but probably not medical, benefits). • Government can provide benefits for up to 12 months, with 12-month renewal available. • Government can sue sponsor for benefits provided to immigrant. (Immigrant can sue sponsor, too).

    16. 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. • 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). • Government can sue sponsor for benefits provided to immigrant. (Again, immigrant can also sue).

    17. Benefits to which deeming applies Deeming applies to: • cash programs: SSI, MSA, GA, MFIP, EA • food programs: food stamps for adults and for U.S. citizen children; MFAP • health care programs: MA, GAMC, MinnesotaCare Deeming doesNOTapply to: • EMA(Emergency Medical Assistance) • Food stampsfor legal immigrant children

    18. Note about deeming and pregnant women: • Pregnant women otherwise subject to deeming CAN qualify for Emergency Medical Assistance (EMA) for labor and delivery. • Pregnant women otherwise subject to deeming CANNOT get EMA (or state-funded MA) for prenatal or post-partum care. • Beginning 7/1/10, however, pregnant women and children will NOT be subject to sponsor-deeming for MA purposes.

    19. 4.“SAVE”Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements • Inter-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

    20. 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 • public housing agencies contracting with HUD

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

    22. Reporting in MinnesotaMDHS issued clarifying bulletins in 1999 and 2002 narrowly interpreting federal reporting requirements. Bulletins have been codified in state policy manuals.Agencies must: • 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

    23. 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 offood stampsshould not be a factor for public charge determinations.

    24. BENEFITS!7. Federal benefits:a. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 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.

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

    26. 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 getting SSI for as long as they remain elderly or disabled. • if not onSSIon8/26/96, they can get SSI now if they are: • “qualified”non-citizensAND • disabled. • They cannotget SSI based on age (over 65).

    27. Immigrants arriving afterwelfare 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-citizenscannotget SSI. • Interestingly, most“qualified”non-citizens alsocannotget SSI. There are 3 exceptions.

    28. Exceptions to ban on SSIfor newer legal immigrantsImmigrants arriving after August 22, 1996 • Those granted refugee, asylee, or withholding status can get SSI for 7 years after grant of status. • Certain humanitarian immigrants may get additional 2-3 years of SSI after their 7 years of benefits. • U.S. veterans & active-duty members of U.S. armed forces, & their spouses and minor children, can get SSI without time limits. • (Hmong soldiers who fought with the CIA in the Vietnam War are notconsidered “U.S. veterans”). • Non-citizens who have worked at least 40 work quarters (10 years) can get SSI without time limits.

    29. 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, food stamps, SSI, MA) were received by the household do not count as quarters.

    30. 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.

    31. b. food stamps Except when sponsor-deeming applies, the following non-citizens can get food stamps: • Legal non-citizens can get food stamps5 years after getting permanent legal status.

    32. Other eligibility categories for food stamps: Immigrants eligible for food stamps without having to wait 5 years: • refugees, asylees, & those granted withholding 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. & 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

    33. 8. State benefits requirement 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’t have to take such steps if they: • have legally resided in U.S. fewer than 4 years; • are age 70 or older; OR • are living in a nursing home, group home, or similar type of facility.

    34. “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 due to inability to understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

    35. “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, GAMC, MinnesotaCare, state-funded MFIP or MA): • 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.

    36. Crime Victims: U Visas • Crime victimswho are recipients of “U” Visas are not eligible for federally-funded benefits. • They are not specifically eligible for state-funded benefits, either. • U Visarecipients should argue they qualify for state-funded benefits as“lawfully residing people”under state policy manual.

    37. Victims of Trafficking: T Visas • Victims of trafficking who have “T” visas may be 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).

    38. 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 & WBare 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 WB.

    39. Non-citizen eligibility for FSS, DWP, MFIP & WB • Most legal non-citizens permanently in the U.S. are eligible for FSS, DWP, MFIP or WB if they meet the other criteria, whether “qualified” or “unqualified” under federal law. • Certain non-citizens can only get state-fundedFSS, DWP, MFIP or WB. (Eligibility depends on date of arrival in U.S. and immigration category). • 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.

    40. MFIP 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 recipients may include ESL in their work plans for a total of only 24 months (out of 60).

    41. b. cash: General Assistance (GA) • GA is a state-funded program for low-income, low-asset individuals not living with minor children. • GA pays only $203 per month for an individual and $260 for a married couple. • Legal immigrants residing in the U.S. permanently (or with a pending application for adjustment) may get GA if 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.

    42. c. cash: EA Emergency Assistance (EA) is a program designed to prevent destitution by providing cash grants to resolve crises. • Legal, permanent residents are eligible for EA to the same extent (and subject to the same limitations) as U.S. citizens. • EGAand EMSAhave been unallotted; grants under these programs ended 11/1/09. • Sponsor-deeming may preclude eligibility forEA.

    43. d. non-need-based cash: Unemployment Unemployment Insurance –“UI” UI benefits 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. UI benefits are not need-based and therefore are not subject to sponsor-deeming.

    44. e. food MFAP– Minnesota Food Assistance Program • Legal, permanent non-citizens not on MFIP who have been here fewer than 5 years (& therefore may not be eligible for food stamps) may qualify for food benefits through MFAP. • MFAP benefits are available only to those age 50 and older. • The MFAP program follows federal food stamp regulations. • MFAP recipients may be subject to sponsor-deeming.

    45. f. health care (i) Medical Assistance (MA) MAis available to immigrants who: • are low-income and low-asset; • are permanently and legally in the U.S.; AND • meet the categorical requirements by: • beingpregnant; • having minor children/ living in MFIP household • beingunder 21; • being65 or older; OR • being certified disabledby State or SSA. • Sponsor-deeming may preclude eligibility.

    46. MA exception for torture survivors • Those otherwise ineligible for MA can get coverage if they are receiving “care and rehabilitation” services from a non-profit center established to serve victims of torture. • Those receiving such services do NOT have to meet MA guidelines in terms of: • categorical eligibility; • income and asset restrictions; OR • immigration requirements.

    47. (ii) General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) GAMC is state-funded health care program for those not categorically eligible for MA who receive GA, have applied for SSI/SSDI, or are homeless (until April 1, 2010 – the Governor used a line-item veto on funding for the program) • Low-income non-citizens who are lawfully residing in the U.S. on a permanent basis who do not have categorical eligibility for MA may qualify for GAMC. • Sponsor-deeming may preclude eligibility. • Recipients must take “steps” toward citizenship.

    48. (iii) Emergency Medical Assistance (EMA) • EMA is a basic safety net health care program. • EMA can provide health care services to “medically needy” people who are undocumented, who have lapsed documentation, or who otherwise would be ineligible due to sponsor-deeming. • EMA covers acute and chronic medical conditions. • EMA does NOT cover organ transplants or “related procedures.”

    49. EMA is available only to those categorically eligible for MA (i.e., living in a household with minor children, pregnant, elderly, certified disabled, or under 21). • Since the Emergency GAMC(EGAMC) program was eliminated by the State legislature 7/1/03, EMAis the only remaining emergency medical program in Minnesota. • Those not categorically eligible for MA between ages 22 and 64 have no safety net medical coverage.

    50. EMAis for “Emergency Medical Services”: required after the sudden onset of a medical condition manifested by acute symptoms of such severity that the absence of immediate medical attention reasonably could be expected to result in: • Placement of the patient’s health in serious jeopardy; • Serious impairment to bodily functions; OR • Serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.