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[IWS] CRS: NONCITIZEN ELIGIBILITY FOR FEDERAL PUBLIC ASSISTANCE: POLICY OVERVIEW AND TRENDS {24 September 2014]

IWS Documented News Service

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Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau

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Congressional Research Service (CRS)

 

Noncitizen Eligibility for Federal Public Assistance: Policy Overview and Trends

Ruth Ellen Wasem, Specialist in Immigration Policy

September 24, 2014

http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33809.pdf?

[full-text, 28 pages]

 

Summary

The extent to which residents of the United States who are not U.S. citizens should be eligible for

federally funded public aid has been a contentious issue since the 1990s. This issue meets at the

intersection of two major policy areas: immigration policy and welfare policy. The eligibility of

noncitizens for public assistance programs is based on a complex set of rules that are determined

largely by the type of noncitizen in question and the nature of services being offered. Over the

past 18 years, Congress has enacted significant changes in U.S. immigration policy and welfare

policy. Congress has exercised oversight of revisions made by the 1996 welfare reform law (the

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, P.L. 104-193)—including the

rules governing noncitizen eligibility for public assistance that it established—and legislation

covering programs with major restrictions on noncitizens’ eligibility (e.g., food stamps/SNAP,

Medicaid).

 

This report deals with the four major federal means-tested benefit programs: the Supplemental

Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Supplemental Security Income

(SSI) program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, and Medicaid.

Laws in place for the past 18 years restrict the eligibility of legal permanent residents (LPRs),

refugees, asylees, and other noncitizens for most means-tested public aid. Noncitizens’ eligibility

for major federal means-tested benefits largely depends on their immigration status; whether they

arrived (or were on a program’s rolls) before August 22, 1996, the enactment date of P.L. 104-

193; and how long they have lived and worked in the United States.

 

LPRs with a substantial work history or military connection are eligible for the full range of

programs, as are asylees, refugees, and other humanitarian cases (for at least five to seven years

after entry). Other LPRs must meet additional eligibility requirements. For SSI, they are not

eligible for the first five years even if they had 40 credits of earnings (e.g., as a temporary

worker). For SNAP, they generally must have been LPRs for five years or be under age 18. Under

TANF, they generally are ineligible for five years after entry and then eligible at state option.

States have the option of providing Medicaid to pregnant LPRs and children within the five-year

bar; otherwise LPRs are ineligible for the first five years. Unauthorized aliens (often referred to as

illegal aliens) are not eligible for most federal benefits, regardless of whether they are means

tested, with notable exceptions for emergency services, (e.g., Medicaid emergency medical care

or Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster services).

 

TANF, SSI, food stamp, and Medicaid recipiency among noncitizens decreased over the 1995-

2005 period, but Medicaid and SNAP climbed upwards in 2009 and 2013. While the 10-year

decrease from 1995 to 2005 was affected by the statutory changes, the poverty rate of noncitizens

had also diminished over the 1995-2005 decade. The poverty rate for noncitizens residing in the

United States fell from 27.8% in 1995 to 20.4% in 2005. It rose to 26.7% in 2010 and fell to

22.8% in 2013. Noncitizens are disproportionately poorer than native-born residents of the United

States.

 

This report does not track legislation and is updated as policy changes warrant.

 

Contents

Introduction ...................................................................................................................................... 1

Current Eligibility Policy .......................................................................................................... 1

Citizens of the Freely Associated States .................................................................................... 3

Trends in Noncitizen Poverty and Benefit Use ................................................................................ 4

Noncitizen Poverty Levels ........................................................................................................ 4

General Trends .................................................................................................................... 4

Comparative Analysis ......................................................................................................... 5

Noncitizen Benefit Use .............................................................................................................. 6

Formative Research ............................................................................................................. 6

Recent Findings ................................................................................................................... 7

Program Participation Data ....................................................................................................... 9

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) .................................................................................. 9

Food Stamps/SNAP ........................................................................................................... 10

Cash Assistance ................................................................................................................. 10

Related Immigrant Policies Affecting Eligibility........................................................................... 10

Federal and State Benefit Eligibility Standards for Unauthorized Aliens ...................................... 11

Federal Benefits ....................................................................................................................... 11

State Benefits ........................................................................................................................... 13

 

Figures

Figure 1. Noncitizen Residents in Poverty, 1994-2013 ................................................................... 5

Figure 2. Comparative Poverty Levels by Citizenship, 1995, 2005, and 2013 ............................... 6

Figure 3. Percentage of Noncitizens Receiving Selected Assistance of Benefits: 1995,

1998, 2005, 2009, and 2013.......................................................................................................... 7

Figure 4. Percentage Distribution of Recipients by Citizenship Status: 1995 and 2013 ................ 8

Figure 5. Noncitizens as a Percentage of all Food Stamp/SNAP, SSI, and TANF/AFDC

Cash Assistance, 1989-2013 ......................................................................................................... 9

 

Tables

Table 1. Poverty by Citizenship Status, 1995 and 2013 ................................................................... 5

Appendixes

Appendix A. Noncitizen Eligibility for Selected Major Federal Programs ................................... 14

Appendix B. Estimated Benefit Usage, by Citizenship, for Selected Prior Years ......................... 17

Appendix C. Overview of Alien Eligibility Law ........................................................................... 18

Appendix D. “Qualified Aliens” .................................................................................................... 23

 

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This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

 




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