Food for People

The Food Bank for Humboldt County

Public Charge

CalFresh for Non-Citizens & "Public Charge"

STATUS UPDATE Oct 11, 2019:

On October 11th, 2019, three federal judges issued a nationwide temporary injunction blocking this rule from going into effect October 15th, 2019. While we wait for a permanent injunction, this means that it will continue to be safe, after Oct 15th, for non-citizens to access the specific benefits listed below, and it will not impact public charge determination. The Administration will likely challenge the judge's decicion on appeal, so stay tuned. Click here to read the official 24-page ruling.

History of the proposed new rule

The following information is based on analysis of the final public charge rule on inadmissibility that was intended to go into effect, but is not currently in place due to a temporary injunction. This is not legal advice. For information about a specific case, please contact an immigration expert. To find help in your area, visit

On August 14, 2019 the new rule regarding public charge was posted to the federal register, and it was intended to go into effect 60 days later, on October 15, 2019. Law suits were filed by states and counties, and they were successful at receiving a nationwide temporary injunction from 3 federal judges, to block the rule from going into effect for the timebeing. Please stay tuned for updates. Law suits were filed by California, Washington, New York, Virgina, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, District of Colombia, and 2 California counties) 266,000 people submitted comments during the comment period, which helped make a few improvements to the rule.

What was the difference between the longstanding rule and the proposed new rule? Some major changes are important to understand. There is a false impression that receiving benefits means a person is not contributing. In fact a vast majority (91%) of those that could have been affected are working, but for low wages.

The (still for the timebeing) current definition of Public Charge: an individual who is likely to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”

Being classified as a Public Charge may hurt chances of becoming a U.S. citizen in the future. In the past this has typically applied to cash aid programs and long-term care institutionalization and NOT programs such as SNAP/CalFresh, Medicaid, Section 8 Housing, etc.

Proposed (and for the timebeing BLOCKED) definition of Public Charge: An individual who receives one or more of the below listed public benefits for more than 12 months in a 36 month period. Each benefit counts as one month (so receiving 3 of these benefits in one month equals 3 months). The proposed expanded list of benefits include:

  • Cash Assistance for income maintenance (this was part of previous definition and will continue to be)
  • Institutionalization for long-term care at government expense (this was part of previous definition and will continue to be)
  • SNAP (CalFresh in California)
  • Medicaid (with exceptions--does not include Part D. There are exceptions for emergency medical conditions, coverage of children under age 21, and pregnant women)
  • Federal, State, Local, and Tribal Cash Assistance
  • Housing Assistance (public housing, Section 8 Housing Vouchers, and Rental Assistance

These would not be the only factors the government would have considered in determining Public Charge. It would also have looked at totality of circumstances, such as age, health, family status, financial status, education and skills.

Clearing up misinformation: Though as of Oct 11th, three federal judges have temporarily blocked the rule from going into effect, there is still misinformation about which other programs may have affected Public Charge determination. Please note the following:

  • School meals were NOT included in the proposed Public Charge rule. It would have remained safe to fill out applications for the school meal program! Please help get the word out that no one should fear enrolling for free and reduced-cost school meals for their children.
  • WIC was NOT included in the final version of the proposed Public Charge rule (thanks to a lot of advocay work and public comments)
When does Public Charge come up?
  • Applying to be allowed into U.S. for first time
  • Applying to adjust status to become a Legap Permanent Resident (LPR) – obtaining a green card
  • Green card holder who leaves U.S. for more than 180 consecutive days.
Where to find more information about what was proposed:
(PLEASE NOTE- this rule has been blocked for the timebeing, so this is for background educational purposes)