Food insecurity is a widely acknowledged public health challenge. So it’s deeply concerning that the administration’s proposed expansion of the “public charge” rule targets the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the primary federal nutrition program that helps millions of low-income people and families put food on the table each month.
Several studies demonstrate that SNAP reduces food insecurity. And a recent study examining the experience of people who lived in counties where SNAP—previously known as the Food Stamp Program—was first rolled out shows that those with access to these benefits had better health outcomes later in life, including lower rates of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
Under current law, public charge determinations are made when a noncitizen applies for a temporary visa to enter the United States or to become a lawful permanent resident (or “green card holder”). Immigration officials consider whether the applicant could become primarily dependent on the government for support by looking at their use of cash assistance or long-term institutionalized care.
But under the proposed rule, open for public comment until December 10, immigration officials would also consider applicants’ recent and potential use of noncash benefits, including SNAP and Medicaid, which help individuals and families meet their basic needs.