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Voices Speaking

August 15, 2019

New “Public Charge” Definition Finalized, Changing Rules for Changes of Immigrant Status

Karen Siegel, M.P.H.

The proposed changes to the public charge determination used when individuals seek to enter the United States or change their immigration status, which we have written about before, will take effect on October 15 unless litigation is able to delay their implementation. While it is not yet clear how the rule will be applied in practice, many of the changes below would apply to few, if any, current residents of Connecticut. 


What will change? 

The longstanding definition of public charge required officials to consider whether or not an immigrant was likely to become primarily dependent on government assistance through receipt of cash benefits or long-term services and supports. The rule considers the entirety of a person’s circumstances and positive factors can outweigh negative factors. Negative determinations can result in an individual being denied entry to the United States or permanent resident status. 

The new definition describes the following as negative factors: 

  • Age under age 21 or over 61

  • Income under 125 percent of the federal poverty limit 

  • Having a health condition likely to require ongoing care  

  • Enrollment in certain public supports for 12 months within a 36 month period; those supports include: 

    • cash assistance, as in prior definition

    • long-term supports, as in prior definition

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

    •  Medicaid (except for those under the age of 21, pregnant women, and emergency Medicaid services), and 

    • some housing assistance 

Income over 250 percent of the federal poverty limit will be a positive factor. Use of public services by family members will NOT be taken into account. 

See analysis by Protecting Immigrant Families and the Kaiser Family Foundation for details regarding the many exceptions and specifications about how months of enrollment are calculated.


Who is affected? 

It is vital to note that the changes would likely impact very few residents of Connecticut directly. The public charge determination is only applicable to individuals seeking to enter the United States or applying for certain changes in immigration status (for example, applying for a “green card”). The determination is NOT used in considering applications for citizenship. Further, there are a number of exceptions for individuals with special immigration status, such as refugees. Even for those to whom the new rule applies, applications submitted on or before October 15, 2019 will be considered based on the current, longstanding definition of “public charge.”  

Unfortunately, fear of repercussions and the complexity of this rule mean that many families with immigrant members have already withdrawn from vital nutrition and health programs. 

For questions about individual cases, please seek the advice of an immigration lawyer


What is being done to prevent these changes? 

Governor Lamont and Department of Social Services Commissioner Gifford have joined scores of voices around the national in expressing the harm such regulations will cause.

Connecticut’s Attorney General, William Tong, has announced that the state will sue to stop this policy from taking effect. Others are also planning or have filed lawsuits. It is possible that one or more of these law suits will delay or halt implementation of these changes to the “public charge” determination process. 


Take Action

  1. Inform your community so that individuals can make informed decisions about whether or not to enroll in public services 

  2. Tell your representatives in Congress that you support HR3222: No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019  or thank them for co-sponsoring this bill (Rep. DeLauro is a co-sponsor as of this posting)

  3. Thank Attorney General Tong for taking action

Issue Area:
July 18, 2019

New Staff Join the Connecticut Voices Team!

In addition to our recently announced new Executive Director, Emily Byrne, Connecticut Voices for Children is pleased to welcome more new faces to our team. Tami Christopher will lead our education work, and Susana Barragan and Ryan Wilson are the newest participants in our two-year policy fellowship program, which offers full-time positions to exceptional recent college graduates with a strong interest in advancing public policy to benefit children and youth.

Tami Christopher has a dual role at Connecticut Voices for Children as Education Policy & Research Fellow and Associate Policy & Research Fellows (APRF) Program Director. In this capacity, she also serves as the Director for the Connecticut College and Career Readiness Alliance.

Her research and practice spans the K-20 educational space. After beginning in museum educational programming, she transitioned her career to higher education and held leadership roles at the University of Bridgeport, Post University, and Middlesex Community College. Her doctoral residency with Our Piece of the Pie in Hartford focused on strategic planning, college and career readiness, and leadership development. She has consulted for The Education Redesign Lab at Harvard, Jobs for the Future, COACHE, PDK International, and several school districts. She has also taught K-12, undergraduate, and graduate level students.

Tami earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and also holds an MA in American Studies from the University of Southern Maine and an MS in Education from the University of Bridgeport. She received a BA in English from Central Connecticut State University.

Susana Barragan is an Associate Policy & Research Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children. Her issue areas of focus at Voices include fiscal policy and economic security. Her interests include international and local economic development, as well as public policy.

Susana is an Honors scholar graduate from the University of Connecticut, where she earned her B.A. in both Economics and Human Rights. As an undergraduate, she worked in Washington D.C., where she advocated for an economic advancement bill for the Latinx community. She was also an intern for the equitable development team at the Ford Foundation in New York City.

Ryan Wilson is an Associate Policy & Research Fellow for Advocacy at Connecticut Voices for Children. His issue areas of focus include advocacy and equity.  His interests include education and child welfare.

He joins Connecticut Voices after spending two years in Changsha, China working with high school students as a Yale-China Teaching Fellow. Ryan graduated from Yale University in 2017 with a B.A. in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. Born and raised in West Philadelphia, Ryan strives to advocate for racial equity and justice in the systems that affect the development of Connecticut’s youth.


Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security
July 8, 2019

Connecticut Voices Hires Emily Byrne as Executive Director

Emily ByrneFollowing an extensive search, Connecticut Voices for Children is pleased to announce that we have chosen a new Executive Director with wide-ranging experience and a record of leadership in government and nonprofit organizations. Emily Byrne has begun her work as leader of the organization this week.

“Emily brings a wealth of management experience and a lifelong commitment to improving opportunities for Connecticut’s children and families. With Emily at the helm, I am confident that Connecticut Voices will continue to build on its successes and its reputation for effective, research-based advocacy,” said David Nee, Chairperson of Connecticut Voices’ Board of Directors.

Byrne, a long-time Connecticut resident, has extensive experience in developing education, housing, economic development and anti-poverty policies and programs. She has organized and led advocacy campaigns on local, state and federal legislation affecting children and families. A public servant by training, she started her career as a policy analyst for the City of New Haven, where she helped design the nation’s first municipal identification card for all residents, regardless of their immigration status. Since then she has held various governmental leadership positions at the state and local levels, including roles as Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Connecticut State Department of Education and Director of Strategy and Innovation at the New Haven Housing Authority. Most notably, she was the founding Executive Director of New Haven Promise.

“Connecticut Voices for Children has been a provenance of progressive policies, rooted in research, that support the state’s most vulnerable children and families for nearly twenty-five years. Together—with communities and partners—we endeavor to build upon past efforts in service of equitable, inclusive change and justice,” said Byrne. “I am honored and humbled to lead the organization into the next quarter century of its work so that all children in Connecticut have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
June 17, 2019

Proposed changes to poverty measure would be less accurate and cut benefits

The Trump Administration is proposing to change how the Census Bureau’s official poverty measure is adjusted annually for inflation.The proposed changes would gradually decrease the poverty line over time, even though inflation has risen faster for low-income households than for households overall.

This is particularly troublesome in a state like Connecticut that has a high cost of living. Here, the federal poverty line is already far below what is needed to raise a family. The United Way’s ALICE report for 2018 noted that a survival budget for a family of four (two adults and two young children) would require $77,832 per year. This basic survival budget is more than three times the 2018 federal poverty limit of $25,100 for a family of four. Yet, 40 percent of families in the state earn less. A more accurate measure would increase the threshold, rather than aligning it with indices that will result in steady decreases.

In addition, evidence suggests that inflation has been rising more sharply for the goods and services purchased by low-income households. For example, low-income people spend a larger than average share of their budgets on housing, and the price of rent rose 31 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the traditional Consumer Price Index (17 percent). The Trump Administration’s proposal would further lower inflation adjustments for the poverty line, making the official poverty measure even more inaccurate.

What would this mean?

Over time, the poverty income limit would gradually decrease. People just below the poverty limit one year would not be the next and so on. As years pass, fewer and fewer families will be eligible for health insurance through the HUSKY Health (Medicaid and CHIP) programs and for food assistance and other supports. Nationwide, by the 10th year of this change, an estimated 300,000 children would lose coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, nearly 200,000 people would lose SNAP benefits, and more than 100,000 school-age children would lose eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals. (Read more about the impact on health programs and problems with the proposed measure.)

What can we do?

  1. Submit your comments to the Trump Administration opposing this change by Friday, June 21. Our comments are here, in case you would like to use them as a template. Please note that:
    1. The proposal asks that comments not analyze impact on programs. So, we have focused on why this change in methodology would be less accurate.
    2. It is helpful to personalize your comments as much as possible so that they are not dismissed as a simple re-posting.
  2. Let Senator Murphy, Senator Blumenthal, and your U.S. House Representative know why you are opposed to this measure.


Issue Areas:
Family Economic Security, Health
May 29, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: State budget under negotiation

State Budget

Last week, 63 state legislators – including a majority of House Democrats – signed a letter to Governor Lamont encouraging him to approve a budget that asks those who can best afford it to pay more in taxes. The letter called for a two percent surcharge on capital gains for couples earning over $1 million in annual income and individuals earning more than $500,000. As we discussed in our blog, capital gains fact sheet, and revenue proposal report, a capital gains tax could help to close the budget deficit and to fix Connecticut’s upside-down tax system, in which the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than middle- and low-income residents. 

Later news reports indicated that a tentative budget framework that is being negotiated between the Governor and legislative leaders does not include this capital gains tax, though it does include a “mansion tax” on expensive homes, a sales tax increase on some luxury items, and higher taxes on pass-through entity businesses. Unfortunately, these measures would only generate about one-quarter of the revenues that a capital gains tax would produce.

A negotiated budget proposal may be released this week, and a vote is expected by Wednesday, June 5, when the legislative session ends. Please take a moment today to ask both the Governor and your state legislators to fix the state budget deficit and help pay for vital services for children and families by asking the wealthy to pay more!


Legislative Update

As the end of the legislative session approaches on Wednesday, June 5, be sure to contact your legislators and the Governor on issues of concern to you. These are some highlights of recent legislative activity affecting children and families:

Minimum wage. A bill increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 was signed by Governor Lamont this week! Thank you to everyone who supported this effort to give Connecticut families a raise.

Paid family leave. A bill implementing paid family leave (Senate Bill 1) was approved last week by the Connecticut Senate. However, the Governor has indicated that he would veto this bill over concerns about how the program would be administered. The bill awaits a House vote or a negotiated agreement with the Governor.

Community health worker and doula certification. Last week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 859, An Act Concerning Community Health Workers, which would establish a community health worker certification process as a step towards health equity in Connecticut. Community health workers can help to address barriers to health care and unmet needs. The bill awaits a House vote. In addition, a bill that would establish a workgroup concerning the core competencies for doulas to be licensed or certified to practice (Senate Bill 1078) still awaits a vote in the House, following Senate approval earlier this month.

Child welfare oversight. Last week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 452, which would establish a State Oversight Council on Children and Families. The Council provides a structure for various stakeholders to support the needs of children and families who are involved with the child welfare system or at risk of entering the foster care system. The Council could help the state to maintain and build upon important gains made under the Juan F. Consent Decree, even after we have exited from federal oversight. The bill awaits a vote in the House.

Inclusion of Black and Latino studies in the public school curriculum. The House approved legislation (House Bill 7082) that would add Black and Latino studies to the required programs of study for public schools and require boards of education to include an elective course about these topics in their high school curriculum beginning with the 2022-23 school year. The bill has been sent to the Senate for a vote.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date!


Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Family Economic Security, Health
May 24, 2019

Capital Gains Tax Could Help to Reduce Inequality and Boost Opportunity

Connecticut faces a deficit of about $3 billion over the next two years. Without adequate revenues, budget cuts could threaten the education, health, and child care funding vital to expanding opportunities for the state’s children and families. In addition, Connecticut’s upside-down tax system contributes to growing inequality in the state. The wealthiest 20 percent of taxpayers pay a smaller share of their income on state and local taxes than the lowest 20 percent.

As part of its state revenue proposal, the General Assembly’s Finance Committee has proposed a two percent surcharge on capital gains for taxpayers with income over $500,000 for single filers and $1 million for married filers.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlighted proposals in Connecticut and other states that are considering raising capital gains taxes. Their analysis finds that:

  • Because wealth is highly concentrated, so is capital gains income. Nationally, 69 percent of capital gains go to the wealthiest one percent of taxpayers.
  • While opponents argue that strengthening capital gains taxes discourages investment and stifles economic growth, research evidence indicates that there is no connection between capital gains tax rates and economic growth.

Capital Gains Go to Wealthy Families

Connecticut Voices for Children’s recent revenue proposals recommended a broader capital gains and qualified dividends tax on the top two personal income tax brackets. As we discussed in our fact sheet, wealthy Connecticut residents would still enjoy a huge net tax reduction, even with a new state capital gains tax. More than half (56 percent) of the federal Trump tax cuts will go to the wealthiest five percent of Connecticut taxpayers, who will pay $2 billion less in personal income, corporate, and estate taxes in 2019. The top one percent of taxpayers in the state will enjoy an average federal tax cut of nearly $60,000.

Please let the Governor and your state legislators know that you support state revenue proposals that help to fix our state budget deficit, reduce inequality, and expand opportunities for children and families by asking the wealthy to pay more!

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax