By Ciara Zachary and Kate Woomer-Deters
We have seen a significant decline in the number of children in North Carolina with health coverage over the last two years. More than 5 percent of NC kids – just over 130,000 – had no health insurance at all in 2018, according to the Census Bureau. One of the factors driving this unwelcome news: the Public Charge rule.
If you work with immigrant families, or care for children whose parents were born outside the US, Public Charge is probably not news to you. In 2019 the US DHHS finalized new rules that have created real and justifiable fear in the immigrant community. There is no greater terror for a parent than the idea of being separated from your child. But that is NOT what the Public Charge rule does. Find more background, fact sheets, plus videos in English and Spanish on the Public Charge rule here.
Here’s what you need to know if you work with immigrant families: Public Charge probably does not even apply to the kids you care for.
Many essential programs are not considered negatively at all under the rule. That means people can continue to use them without concern if they are eligible. These include: WIC, Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, free & reduced price school lunch, Emergency Medicaid, Medicaid for pregnant women, Medicaid for all children under age 21, FEMA, and more.
These are the key take-away messages for immigrant parents:
Green card applicants: Health and nutrition benefits that your U.S.-born children or other family members receive will NOT count against you. We recommend keeping your kids enrolled in the programs that help them thrive.
If you help your child get healthcare or food through public programs like Medicaid or SNAP, your information is confidential. Information on your public benefits application for your child will ONLY be used to determine their eligibility. It will not be shared with other government agencies, including immigration agencies.
Public Charge does not apply to:
- Green card holders who are applying for citizenship,
- Refugees & Asylees
- People holding or applying for U visas for victims of crime,
- People holding or applying for immigration status under VAWA (victims of domestic violence),
- People holding or applying for human trafficking visas
- People renewing their DACA
- and more.
The public charge rule does not apply at all to those in the protected categories above, even if they move forward to apply for a green card or citizenship later.
Need more tools to communicate with families in your community? Check out this great messaging toolkit from Protect Immigrant Families.
Ciara Zachary is NC Child’s Health Program Director
Kate Woomer-Deters is the Senior Attorney at the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project of the North Carolina Justice Center
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