The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the Public Charge rule on February 24, 2022. The deadline to submit comments is Monday, April 25, 2022. In 2019, the previous administration had proposed a new public charge rule, which led to widespread confusion and fear among immigrant communities across the country. Though the 2019 rule was nationally rescinded by the new administration in early 2020, that may not be widely known, and the fear it created continues to have a chilling effect on immigrants and their families. This new proposed rule, welcomed by advocates, aims to offer clearer guidance and mitigate some of the confusion caused from the 2019 proposed rule by largely codifying and improving the 1999 public charge policy. 

For health care advocates who work with immigrants, the public charge-related chilling effect has had a clear impact on immigrants’ access to health care. During the pandemic, immigrants and their families have avoided services they need due to fears of becoming a public charge. This NPRM clarifies that enrolling in non-cash benefits, including Medicaid (minus long-term institutionalization paid by the government), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) would not be counted towards the public charge test. It also clarifies that applying for benefits, being approved for benefits, assisting someone else to apply for benefits, or being in the same household as someone who receives benefits will not be counted towards the public charge test. A further analysis of the NPRM can be found here. 

Community Catalyst is following the lead of Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF), urging DHS to move quickly to improve and finalize the proposed rule. PIF and partners have worked closely to develop materials to ensure advocates, stakeholders, and community members have a say during this NPRM. PIF partners and allied organizations can use any or all of the resources below, provided by PIF: 

  • DHS’s Proposed Public Charge Rule: What You Need to Know Informational Webinar   

  • Organizational sign-on comment — National, state and local organizations should sign this letter! It signals support for the aspects of the NPRM that improve protections for immigrant families, and outlines PIF’s recommendations for improvements on the proposal. You can circulate this broadly to partner organizations. Partners may also find the talking points and sample email here helpful in encouraging other nonprofits to sign on. Deadline: April 21 

  • Template comment — For organizations working to submit detailed and unique organizational comments. These comments will provide an administrative record that can support key elements of the final rule if/when it is challenged in court. Deadline: April 25 

  • Petition comment — For partners who want to provide a way for directly-affected and allied individuals to send a unified message to DHS, without slowing the regulatory process. The petition comment is available in 9 languages (including English). Partners may also find these talking points and these social samples helpful in encouraging people to sign on. Deadline: April 21 

  • State Policymaker TipsheetTips and sample language for state and local agencies to comment on the DHS Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. 

PIF is encouraging most partners to focus on the organizational sign-on comment, which brings our voices together while minimizing delays in DHS’ work to finalize a new and improved public charge regulation.  

We expect a final rule to be published sometime in the fall. Looking ahead, along with our partners at PIF, we hope that Congress will strike the public charge rule from the law and eliminate other barriers to health care for immigrants and their families that are rooted in racism, sexism and classism. We will continue to work with our partners to make this a reality and ensure equitable access to health care and all safety nets for everyone, regardless of their immigration status. For now, we ask our partners to participate in responding to the NPRM in the capacity that is appropriate to them and to uplift PIF’s resources among your networks.