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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 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 21, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: State budget, minimum wage, early childhood day at the Capitol

Legislative Update

There are only two weeks left before the state legislative session ends on June 5, and policymakers are making critical decisions now about funding priorities for children and families and on the revenues to support them. Here are a few updates on recent developments.

State budget: action needed. Smart state fiscal policies can play a critical role in building a strong, equitable state economy. It is time we fix our tax laws to give working people and children a fair shot to get ahead by pursuing the twin goals of assuring adequate revenues to support the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families, and enhancing the fairness of our tax system.

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!

Finance Committee proposal. The General Assembly’s Finance Committee has published an “implementer bill” that lays out the details of its revenue proposals. It includes a highly progressive, two percent surcharge on capital gains realized by taxpayers in the highest income tax bracket and non-residents with gains derived from Connecticut sources.

This bill also recommends that the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services produce a report by January 2020 on the potential impact of implementing a new payroll tax in Connecticut. This is a complex proposal that would largely replace our state personal income tax. There are many unanswered questions about its implementation; the impact on low-income families; and other important, unforeseen consequences.

For more information on revenue options that would provide more adequate funding for child and family services while improving fairness in our tax system, see our recent report and a presentation by Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Voices.

Minimum wage. Connecticut families will soon get a raise! Legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 over the next four years was approved by the House and Senate, and Governor Lamont has indicated that he will sign the bill.

Doula certification. Legislation that would establish a workgroup concerning the core competencies for doulas to be licensed or certified to practice was approved unanimously by the Senate and awaits a vote in the House. The working group would be charged with evaluating public health and safety risks and benefits associated with doulas, and the minimum requirements needed for licensure or certification as a doula. Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support before, during and after the birth; they do not provide medical care. Evidence suggests that doula support is likely to reduce the dramatic racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.

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

Early Childhood Day at the Capitol

Join us at the 2019 Day at the Capitol on Thursday morning to learn about the early childhood proposals before the state legislature. The event, sponsored by the Connecticut After School Network and the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, will take place on May 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. in Room 310 at the State Capitol. After the event, you are encouraged to meet with your legislators for some hands-on advocacy.  Participants are encouraged to wear yellow.

Please RSVP here.

Learn more

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Family Economic Security, Health
May 10, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Countdown to the End of the Session


Legislative Update: Countdown to the End of the Session

There are fewer than four weeks left in the state legislative session, and this is a key time to contact your legislators about your priorities for children and families.

Raise your voice for fair and adequate state revenues

Connecticut has the opportunity this year to make significant progress toward improved access to high-quality early care and health care, as well as protecting the rights of youth in foster care and restoring funds for juvenile justice services. But without adequate revenues to close a recently estimated $3 billion budget gap over the next two years, more painful cuts that could fall most heavily on children and low-income families are all too likely.

Connecticut also needs to fix our upside down tax system, in which the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than low- and middle-income people to fund the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families. As we discussed in our recent summary, the revenue proposal by the General Assembly’s Finance Committee takes some positive steps in this direction by raising revenues through a surcharge on capital gains for high-income residents and by closing some corporate tax loopholes. However, the Committee’s proposal falls $340 million short of the revenues proposed by Governor Lamont for the next two years.

Another revenue proposal under discussion by legislators and advocates is a higher personal income tax rate for residents in the highest tax brackets. The state legislative session ends in less than one month on June 5, so the final shape of the state revenue and spending plans will be negotiated soon.

Please take a moment today to send a message to your legislators and the Governor, asking them to raise taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers, who currently pay less than their fair share!

Legislative budget plan avoids major cuts, but investments limited by budget rules

While the budget bill passed by the Appropriations Committee protects many programs that serve children and families from budget cuts, rigid and counterproductive budget rules are starving schools, infrastructure, and health systems of the spending needed to support critical investments.

As we explored in our latest report, the Appropriations Committee’s spending plan includes funding for some of our key priorities, including the preservation of coverage for parents of children in the HUSKY health insurance program, start-up costs for a public option to expand health insurance coverage, and restored funding for juvenile justice services. However, implementing these measures depends on raising adequate revenues. And our capacity to make the bolder investments we need in children and families continues to be limited by budget rules like the Bond Lock and the volatility, revenue, and spending caps.

Minimum wage hike approved by the House

Legislation to increase the minimum wage in Connecticut to $15 over the next four years was approved by the Connecticut House on Thursday! The bill includes a provision for a lower “training wage” for 16 and 17 year-olds for the first 90 days of their employment. The bill now moves to the Senate, where a vote may be scheduled soon.

Paid family and medical leave bill awaits floor vote

Recently, advocates have been pressing legislators to ensure that the paid family and medical leave bill ensures that all workers have access to paid leave, regardless of the size of their employer. They are also advocating for a definition of family that includes chosen family, which can be important to ensure that children in non-traditional families can still receive the care they need. The bill may get a floor vote in the Senate soon.

National partners join Voices in support of capital gains surcharge

Staff experts from our national partners – Elizabeth McNichol of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Aidan Davis of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy – joined Jamie Mills of Connecticut Voices for Children in submitting powerful testimony before the Finance Committee in support of a modest surcharge on capital gains earned by our wealthiest residents.


Teach-In on the State Budget

Join us at a teach-in on state budget solutions on Tuesday, where Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Connecticut Voices for Children, will discuss how Connecticut’s regressive tax system contributes to growing inequality and how the state’s rigid budget rules exacerbate budget problems. She’ll also explore revenue solutions that can enable us to fund vital priorities for children and families.

The teach-in, sponsored by the DUE Justice Coalition, will take place on Tuesday, May 14 at 10 a.m. in Room 1B at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Please spread the word and share the event flyer. We’ll see you there!


Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice