Proposed “public charge” changes will harm immigrant families seeking food assistance


October 3, 2018 By: Marcus Schmit

Last week, the Trump Administration released proposed changes to how the federal government interprets the use of safety net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid, by immigrant families with legal status. Current federal guidelines allow Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to deny entry or legal permanent residency to immigrants deemed a “public charge,” or likely to require federal government assistance in the form of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Medicaid long-term care as their primary source of support. The Administration’s proposal would significantly expand the public charge criteria to include essential emergency food assistance.

Second Harvest Heartland is deeply concerned about the impact of this proposal and recently stated its opposition to this policy change because it will directly result in increased pressure on Minnesota’s emergency food system – the network of food shelves and meal programs in communities across the state – or worse that immigrant families will choose not to seek the food support they need for themselves and their children.

As a food bank committed to ending hunger with community partners, Second Harvest Heartland is not accustomed to weighing into the public immigration debate. We are not here. Our position opposing the proposed public charge changes is squarely focused on our belief that all Minnesotans need access to healthy, fresh food to reach their full potential. This benefits our neighbors, our communities and the future economic vitality of our state. The proposal set forth by the Administration doesn’t align with this vision – and it doesn’t match our values at Second Harvest Heartland.

In the coming weeks, Second Harvest Heartland will issue public comments when the official rule is posted on the DHS website. These comments will be informed by the Second Harvest Heartland SNAP outreach team, agency partners and Minnesotans experiencing hunger.

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