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The 2019 Public Charge Rule Is No Longer in Effect: Immigrant Families Will Not Be Punished for Accessing Certain Government Services

Health Care, Housing, Mental Health

By: Rafael Camacho Jr.*

Immigrants in the United States have long feared losing their immigration status based on the public charge rule that dates back to the 1882 Immigration Act. As a result of this fear, eligible immigrants have avoided (and continue to avoid) gaining access to government services such as Medicaidpublic housing, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, AKA “Food Stamps”). Considering the 2019 public charge rule is no longer in effect, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS), and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released statements that encourage administrative agencies, federal partners, as well as state, local governments, and non-governmental organizations to educate eligible immigrants about gaining access to critical government services available to them. The fact that this rule is no longer in effect is welcome news for immigrant families with family members who have disabilities and need healthcare benefits and community-based supports. This blog post briefly discusses the changes to the public charge rule and where to get more information about how to gain access to government services.

The Message Is Simple

“The 2019 public charge rule is no longer in effect.” Immigrant families will not be punished for accessing certain health benefits and other government services available to them, such as public housing. The USDHS states it will no longer consider a person receiving Medicaid (except Medicaid for long-term institutionalization) as part of a public charge determination when deciding immigration status. The USDHS states, too, that it is critical that immigrants and their families, many of whom are essential workers, are able to access necessary government services for which they may be eligible to keep their families safe and healthy. Additionally, the HHS encourages immigrants to gain access to Medicaid coverage and gain access to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The HHS states they want to dispel fears that access to these benefits will impact immigration status. The CMS is encouraging individuals needing health care coverage to not be afraid to apply for coverage through Medicaid and CHIP.

Key Takeaways

Immigrants have long lived in fear of being punished for gaining access to benefits that are critical for their families. Immigrant communities can now have peace of mind knowing they can access services such as Medicaid (except Medicaid for long-term institutionalization), public housing, and SNAP. Also, medical treatment or preventative services for COVID-19, including COVID-19 vaccinations, will not be considered for public charge purposes. Immigrant families, and their children, will not risk their immigration status for gaining access to government services that are legally available to them. Importantly, administrative agencies, federal partners, as well as state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations will work together to communicate this information widely to ensure applicants and the public are aware of these changes.

For more information on what it means to be a public charge and the current public charge policy guidance, please review the following link.

Questions regarding Medicaid may be directed to Sarah Lichtman Spector, Director of Medicaid Eligibility Policy, at (410) 786-3031 or Questions regarding CHIP may be directed to Meg Barry, Director, Division of State Coverage Programs at (410) 786-1536 or

Government Services Information

*Rafael Camacho Jr. is an Advocate-Investigator at the DRAZ’s Tucson office where here works primarily with the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Program. Mr. Camacho has worked with Arizona’s immigrant communities for the last ten years addressing barriers to their employment, physical health, behavioral health, and overall self-sufficiency. 


  1. The Problem with Public Charge. Joseph Daval.

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