CSAC Bulletin Article

Federal Government Finalizes Public Charge Rule

August 15, 2019

This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially released the controversial public charge final rule. The rule expands the definition of public charge to require consideration of current or potential receipt of non-cash benefits, including Medicaid/Medi-Cal, SNAP/CalFresh, and federally subsidized housing when determining whether to extend or revise a legal immigrant’s status.

In December, CSAC submitted comments opposing the rule change in response to DHS’s notice of proposed rulemaking related to the public charge. In developing the comments, CSAC worked in partnership with county affiliates including the County Welfare Directors Association (CWDA), County Health Executives Association of California (CHEAC), and the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (CAPH). These affiliates and numerous counties submitted comments opposing any changes to current public charge rules.

CSAC indicated that this rule will lead to legal immigrant families not accessing federal benefits for which they are eligible, especially for non-immigrant/citizen children who may be eligible for health and nutritional supports. The negative consequences from this rule could include disenrollment from health and social services, worse health and wellbeing outcomes, increased county costs, and increased county administrative burdens. Concerns expressed in December to DHS were overwhelmingly not addressed in the official final rule.

The new public charge rule is set to take effect 60 days from Wednesday, August 14, 2019. Following the release of the final rule, two California counties filed a legal challenge and there will likely be more lawsuits.

There are numerous resources about public charge available on county affiliate websites including CWDA and CHEAC. CSAC will continue to engage on this issue and communicate the anticipated negative impacts.

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