Public Charge

Update: Public Charge Rule

Hunger Solutions New York, along with our national and state partners, is grateful for the efforts of anti-hunger advocates in NYS and across the country who pushed back against the proposed public charge rule that would force many immigrants to choose between food and family. 

Status of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Pending Rule on Public Charge Inadmissibility

More than 260,000 comments were submitted – the vast majority in opposition to the rule. The final rule has not yet been published. We will keep you appraised of if and when the rule is published and actions you can take to support access to food and nutrition programs for immigrants and their families.

The next step in the notice and comment process is for the DHS to review and consider every unique comment submitted. Under usual circumstances, it would take at least six months and possibly a year or more for an agency to review and respond to comments on a rule this complicated. However, it is possible that this Administration may try to rush the approval process and post a final rule more quickly. It’s also possible (though unlikely) that the administration will never issue a final rule. This is what happened following the public charge comment period in 1999.

Background on the Pending Rule on Public Charge Inadmissibility

In September of 2018, the Trump Administration announced a proposed public charge rule that would greatly undercut efforts to address food insecurity and poverty by making it harder for immigrant families to access a range of nutrition, health, and housing benefits that are essential to our nation’s health and well-being. The proposed rule expansively — and unnecessarily — redefines what being a “public charge” means, fundamentally changing who would be able to enter and stay in the United States. The deeply flawed rule unravels decades of sound and settled public policy that draws a clear line between which public benefits may be used without causing public charge consequences, and which ones may not. If adopted, this rule would make immigrant families afraid to seek programs that safeguard their health, nutrition, housing, and economic security.

The DHS’s proposed “public charge” rule would fuel rates of hunger and food insecurity among immigrant families, including families with U.S. citizen children.

NEW: Department of Justice (DOJ) Pending Rule on Public Charge Deportability

The DOJ has drafted, but not published, a proposed rule related to deportation on public charge grounds, according to a report by Reuters. In the event the rule is published, there will be time to submit comments opposing the rule, and Food Research and Action Center and our other national partners will be developing model comments for advocates to weigh in on how the proposed rule will contradict the purposes of nutrition statutes and fuel food insecurity, hunger, and their adverse consequences in all parts of the country. 

It is important not to heighten the fears immigrant families are facing, especially as a proposed rule on deportation and public charge has not been published in the federal register and the scope of the rule is unclear.

New resources:

New findings about the proposed rule’s effect on SNAP participation, and best practices for messaging

The New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs recently commissioned a survey to examine potential effects of the proposed rule and an analysis of SNAP enrollment data. Findings suggest “a chilling effect: eligible immigrant families are avoiding SNAP out of fear of potential immigration consequences.”

Read the findings and learn messaging best practices geared towards preventing individuals from withdrawing from services unnecessarily.

Fact Sheet: SNAP Enrollment Trends in New York City

NYC Public Charge Messaging Fact Sheet

Public Charge Palm card


Public Charge: What Community Organizations in New York Need to Know


For community organizations working in NYS within immigrant communities. The webinar covered:

  • current public charge rule 
  • how it is changing
  • what you can do to impact the rule making
  • how to talk with your clients who may be impacted

Held by Empire Justice Center, Fiscal Policy Institute, Hunger Solutions New York, and the New York Immigration Coalition 

Public Charge Rule—Impact on New York State

2.1 million people in New York State

would be impacted by the new rule, if enacted. This includes anyone in a family that has received any food, health, or housing supports, and where at least one member of the family is a non-citizen.

38% of non-citizens and 33% of U.S. born New Yorkers

have benefited from health care, food, housing, or cash supports.

680,000 children

under 18 years old live in families with at least one non-citizen family member and that have received one of the benefits.

A loss of $2.2 billion

in direct federal dollars coming into the state and a potential loss of $3.6 billion due to the ripple effects in lost spending. (Fiscal Policy Institute estimate)

25,000 jobs

potentially lost as a result of this reduction in federal funding coming to the state.

Public Charge 101

  • “Public charge” is a term used in immigration law to refer to a person who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government to meet his or her basic needs.
  • The public charge decision is based on several different factors. Called the “totality of circumstances” test, an immigration officer looks at the applicant’s age, health, family status, financial status, education and skills, and their affidavit of support (if they have one). The government must look at your whole situation to decide if you are likely to depend on public programs in the future.
  • The new proposed rule, the government now wants to redefine “public charge” more expansively, as an immigrant who receives one or more listed public benefits.
  • If approved and finalized, the regulation would vastly expand the federal government’s power to bar an immigrant from entering the United States, obtaining a new visa, or becoming a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) by labeling the immigrant a likely “public charge.”
  • This rule wouldn’t make it illegal for immigrants to use public services that are open to everyone regardless of immigration status, or that are available to their US-born children. But it would make it possible for the government to deny their applications for a new type of visa, or a green card if they have used those services.
  • The public charge test is forward-looking and cannot be based on what may have happened in the past.
  • The programs that would be considered in the new proposed public charge rule, in addition to the cash and long-term care programs already considered currently are:
    • Health coverage through Medicaid, except for emergency Medicaid.
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps)
    • Low Income Subsidy for prescription drug costs under Medicare Part D; and
    • Rental assistance under Section 8 housing vouchers, Project Based Section 8, and Public Housing.

For more information on Public Charge, visit Mom’s Rising Public Charge FAQ

Additional Resources

Food Research & Action Center
The Food Research Action Center (FRAC) is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States.
Report on Public Charge impact on hunger
Webinar: How to Protect Families from the Proposed Public Charge Rule

Legal AID Society
The Legal Aid Society exists for one simple yet powerful reason: to ensure that no New Yorker is denied their right to equal justice because of poverty.
Public Charge Screening Tool designed to help make a determination about who might be at risk of public charge, help answer client questions and determine who needs a referral to a lawyer with immigration expertise.

New York Immigration Coalition
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy & advocacy organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York. The NYIC advocates for laws and policies to improve the lives of immigrants and all New Yorkers, particularly those that live in lower-income communities.
NYIC’s public charge information page
Public Charge legal resources
Webinar in partnership with the Office of New Americans
Outreach flyers in multiple languages: English, Spanish, Arabic, Korean, Chinese, French

Office of New Americans
The New York State Office for New Americans helps New Americans fully participate in New York State civic and economic life. 
Webinar for advocates and service providers who wish to use the new Public Charge Screening Tool.

Protect Immigrant Families 
The Protecting Immigrant Families, Advancing Our Future campaign, co-chaired by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) brings together leading advocates for immigrants, children, education, health, anti-hunger and anti-poverty groups, and faith leaders, not only to defend against these threats but also to lay the foundation for a more productive a national dialogue about our immigrant tradition and our country’s future.
Analysis and FAQ on the DHS public charge inadmissibility proposal –new
FAQ on potential DOJ public charge deportability proposal –new
Guides on immigrant eligibility for federal programs and privacy protections in benefit programs –new
New York fact sheet
Campaign Listserv


Coalition on Human Needs 
The Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) is an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies which address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations. The Coalition’s members include civil rights, religious, labor and professional organizations, service providers and those concerned with the well being of children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Children’s Health Watch
Children’s HealthWatch is a nonpartisan network of pediatricians, public health researchers, and children’s health and policy experts committed to improving children’s health in America.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonpartisan research and policy institute.  The CBPP pursues federal and state policies designed both to reduce poverty and inequality and to restore fiscal responsibility inequitable and effective ways and apply expertise in budget and tax issues and in programs and policies that help low-income people, in order to help inform debates and achieve better policy outcomes.

New York Academy of Medicine 
Additional resources to help develop comments are available from the New York Academy of Medicine’s series of fact sheets on programs that would be affected by the proposed rule, including healthnutrition, and housing.