April 3, 2018

Federal update: SNAP, Gun Control, Immigration requirements

As Connecticut races toward legislative deadlines, the federal government has been crafting important new legislation that impacts children and families on matters ranging from food security to gun violence. Here is a brief update on three important issues—Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Public Charge, and gun legislation—together with three things you can do right now to raise your voice for children.

 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

 

SNAP provides food support to families who are struggling to make ends meet. As of February 2016, it affects over 230,000 households in Connecticut. Cuts to SNAP increase the risk of children going hungry, which makes it harder for them to concentrate in school and more likely that they will be ill.

Intense negotiations over the Farm Bill Reauthorization Act, which includes SNAP funding, have stalled. Republican leadership has decided to move ahead with a bill that would shift funding from benefits to job training programs and make individuals ineligible for SNAP if they meet state, but not federal, asset test limits. It is likely that any bill will require bipartisan support to pass. There is no final word on how proposed changes might affect SNAP in Connecticut, but rumors of complex requirements and cuts have us watching carefully. 

We will include updates in our newsletter. In the meantime, call your federal representatives and urge them NOT to pass a farm bill that will harm Connecticut’s low-income families.

 

Public Charge:

 

“Public charge” is a term used by immigration officials to determine that a person seeking to enter the United States, immigrate, or apply for a Legal Permanent Resident or “green card” through a family-based petition is or is not likely to be dependent on public services.

To date, this definition has included only cash assistance and institutionalization for publicly funded long-term care. A draft of potential changes to these rules has resulted in fear and concern.

It is important to note that these changes are only in draft form and are not yet in practice. If undertaken, changes would expand the definition of “public charge” to include participation in Medicaid, SNAP, HeadStart, Affordable Care Act and Earned Income tax credits, and more. Under the proposed changes, government officials could consider the use of these services by citizen children and other family members as well. These rules are NOT final, but it is important to remain vigilant as such changes could impact the decision of families to participate in services that help them thrive and/or impact appeals for visas. In their current form, these recommendations would NOT affect anyone who is already enrolled in services.

Please spread the word that it is safe to access social services, for now. We will share alerts if/when the draft regulations sent to the Office of Budget and Management are posted for public comment.

 

Gun legislation:

 

Gun violence is a public health crisis in the United States and public discourse about gun violence has become a theme of protest and calls to action in 2018. While Connecticut’s strict gun laws have reduced gun deaths here, over 150 people still died from firearm-related injuries in 2016. For more on state efforts to curb gun violence, see our recent testimony. The omnibus spending bill makes a few small changes:

  1. Clarifies that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CAN conduct gun violence research, but does not fund these efforts specifically
  2. Improves, in a small way, the current background check system

Unfortunately, this bill did not close the loopholes in the background check system or include an anticipated national concealed-carry provision. Given the dramatic, evidence-based success of Connecticut’s permit-to-purchase laws, we hope to see these taken up nationwide.

Tell your federal representatives that the whole country should benefit from Connecticut’s strict gun laws.

Issue Areas:
Family Economic Security, Health