NJ Department of Human Services filed a public comment opposing the proposed rule that would negatively impact New Jerseyans’ health and well-being

(TRENTON) – The New Jersey Department of Human Services filed a public comment strongly opposing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s draft proposal to expand the definition of a public charge, noting the proposed rule would undermine the health and well-being of New Jersey families.

Click here to see the filing.

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The proposed rule would change the way the federal government evaluates whether immigrants are likely to become “public charges” or use public benefits.  These evaluations would impact federal decisions about immigrants’ ability to become legal permanent residents and other immigration determinations. 

If finalized, the rule would unnecessarily cause immigrant families to avoid needed benefits for which they or their citizen children are eligible for fear of the impact on adjusting to a legal permanent resident status.  The Department of Human Services already has received reports that the proposed rule is creating needless fear and a “chilling effect” on the use of benefits in immigrant communities. 

The proposed rule would significantly expand the list of programs and assistance that would be counted as part of the public charge test – counting the use of vital and life-saving and life-sustaining programs as part of the test including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Medicare Part D (the prescription drug assistance program for seniors), and various housing and rental assistance programs.  It also would impose new income requirements.

“The Murphy Administration is committed to building a stronger and fairer New Jersey,” wrote New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “To achieve that goal, residents need access to nutrition, health care, and other essential support to help them get on the best possible financial footing and keep children healthy, parents working, and families strong.”

“These changes create undue burdens and make it unnecessarily difficult for lawfully present low- and moderate-income immigrants and their families to become legal permanent residents or change their temporary status in the United States,” said New Jersey Human Services Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira. “The rule creates an environment where families could feel compelled to choose between their health care services or critical food assistance and their green card.” 

Neira also noted the widespread chilling effect this proposal is creating in communities across our state, with families concerned about enrollment in services for fear of the public charge implications.

Research and studies have confirmed that participation in SNAP and Medicaid significantly improves health outcomes and reduces reliance on cash assistance benefits.  A drop in participation in these programs would shift the burden onto the state and its residents, as well as the infrastructure that serves them, such as schools, hospitals and clinics. Delayed health care could lead to increased emergency room visits and hospitalizations, burdening the health care system and the state.

A lack of food assistance could increase food insecurity and hunger and lead families to look elsewhere, increasing the burden on our already struggling food pantries, shelters and other safety net resources. 

 “We call on the federal government to withdraw this proposed rule and instead work together with states to advance the security and well-being of U.S. residents, including immigrants, so that we can ensure our communities thrive and are given the supports they need to remain healthy and productive,” said Commissioner Johnson.