The Application Process For TANF, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Background Context


  • High levels of immigration over the past decade and increasing dispersal of non-citizens across the country means that more non-citizens now live in areas without an established infrastructure to deliver services in languages other than English, or where such infrastructure is in early stages of development. Even urban centers accustomed to receiving large numbers of immigrants, such as New York City, are faced with the challenge of dealing with an increasingly diverse number of immigrant groups who speak dozens of different languages.
  • The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) and subsequent legislative changes include eligibility rules for federally funded public benefits that affect certain classes of legal non-citizens. Further, "mixed-status" immigrant families have to deal with eligibility determination that sometimes may be unclear. According to 1998 figures from the U.S. Current Population Survey (CPS), 85 percent of families with at least one non-citizen parent have at least one citizen child. The vast majority of immigrant families who apply for benefits have both citizens and non-citizens in them and while non-citizen adults are often ineligible for benefits, their children — who are usually citizens — are generally eligible. The mixed-status of many immigrant families and the complicated eligibility rules concerning non-citizens presents challenges for human service agencies as well as immigrant families who may not understand if and how they are affected by the eligibility restrictions.
  • In the years following the enactment of PRWORA, human service agencies have been engaged, to varying degrees, in creating new organizational structures, administrative practices and service delivery systems that include undertaking a significant expansion in medical assistance to children and creating a devolved, work-oriented welfare system that provides a variety of supports for working families as well those receiving cash assistance. In particular, the enactment of SCHIP has served as a catalyst for developing simplified and streamlined up-front intake procedures in order to expand health insurance for uninsured children. In addition, efforts to reduce dependency on cash assistance and promote work have increased awareness of the work support role of food stamps and medical assistance.

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