Kansas Center for Economic Growth speaks out against anti-immigrant ‘public charge’ proposal

Nov. 26, 2018

The Kansas Center for Economic Growth is speaking out today against the Department of Homeland Security’s “public charge” proposal. As an organization that advocates on behalf of Kansans, we are concerned the proposed rule would cause major harm to Kansas immigrants and their families. We urge that the rule be withdrawn in its entirety, and that longstanding principles clarified in the 1999 field guidance remain in effect.

KCEG is a nonprofit, nonpartisan project of Kansas Action for Children that conducts research and analysis to promote balanced state policies that help ensure every Kansan prospers. Our mission is to advance responsible policies by informing public discussion through credible, fact-based materials. We serve policymakers, the news media and every Kansan who wants to engage in making our state a place where opportunity and economic growth are widely shared. Our organization wants to ensure every Kansas resident is able access the benefits to which they are entitled without fear of repercussions to their individual or family member’s immigration status. Families should be able to access and use the benefits they are eligible for, focused on remaining healthy and productive, without compromising their immigration status at the same time. Congress has clearly understood this over time, intentionally avoiding and removing barriers to immigrant access to programs such as SNAP, CHIP and Medicaid. The administration must defer to Congressional intent on this issue.

The proposed rule would cause major harm to immigrants and their families, communities, localities, states, schools and health care providers and health facilities.  The proposed regulation would make — and has already made — immigrant families afraid to seek programs that support their basic needs. The proposal could prevent immigrants from using the programs their tax dollars help support, preventing access to essential health care, healthy, nutritious food and secure housing. It would increase poverty, hunger, sickness, and unstable housing by discouraging enrollment in programs that improve health, food security, nutrition, and economic security, with profound consequences for families’ well-being and long-term success. In Kansas, 123,000 Kansans live in families with at least one non-citizen family member and have received one of the benefits specified by the proposed rule,[1] and they are experiencing the “chilling effect.”[2] The widespread “chilling effect” causes families to withdraw from benefits due to fear and is already evident because of rumors about the rule.  Community providers have reported changes in health care use, including decreased participation in Medicaid and other programs due to community fears stemming from the leaked draft regulations.  Likewise, fear has been driving immigrant families — who are eligible to receive benefits for themselves or their children — to forgo vital health and nutrition assistance, jeopardizing the health of families and communities alike.

It is estimated that changes to the definition of the benefit-related test could increase the percentage of those who would be defined as a public charge.[3] Under the current definition, 4 percent of U.S. born and 1 percent of non-citizens could be a public charge in Kansas under the current definition’s benefit related test.[4] Under the proposed definition, 24 percent of U.S. born and 16 percent of non-citizens could be a public charge in Kansas under the proposed definition’s benefit related test.[5]

The proposed rule would have a dramatic economic effect on Kansas. Research modeled the impact of two of the biggest supports the proposed rule would affect: SNAP and Medicaid. The Fiscal Policy Institute provided “estimates of the impacts if 15, 25, and 35 percent of people currently receiving benefits who experience the chilling effect feel compelled to disenroll from programs for which they qualify. This range of disenrollment is derived from studies of prior experiences of big policy changes creating a chilling effect for immigrants, such as the welfare reform bill of the 1990s.”[6]

Economic Loss to State
Simulated Impact of Trump Rule Lower Estimate
15% disenrollment
Middle Estimate
25% disenrollment
Higher Estimate
35% disenrollment
Loss of Federal Funds to Kansas $24 million $40 million $56 million
Potential Economic Ripple Effects $47 million $78 million $109 million
Potential Jobs Lost 318 530 743
 

Sources: Estimate of direct loss was calculated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; economic ripple effects and jobs lost was estimated by the Economic Policy Institute. See Methodology for details. Totals may not sum due to independent rounding. For methodology, see “Only Wealthy Immigrants Need Apply,” Fiscal Policy Institute, October 10, 2018.

The middle estimate shows a loss of $40 million in direct federal dollars coming into the state. If this money is withdrawn from the Kansas economy, the effects would ripple. Our mid-level estimate shows a potential loss of $78 million due to the ripple effects of lost spending.[7] This ripple would be caused by several factors, including:

  • A decrease in SNAP funding would affect grocery stores and supermarkets.
  • A decrease in health insurance would impact hospitals, doctors, and other health care entities. Medicaid is an indispensable funding source for safety net hospitals and clinics, which are financially vulnerable. More than 35% of visits to safety-net hospitals are covered by Medicaid.  Medicaid is the single largest source of funding for community health centers in both Medicaid expansion and non-expansion states (such as Kansas).
  • A reduction in spending by families to pay for increases in food and health care costs.

Due to the decrease in spending, businesses will likely have to reduce staff. It is estimated that Kansas could lose 530 jobs under our middle estimate as a result of this decrease in federal funding to our state.

For these reasons, the Department should immediately withdraw its current proposal, and dedicate its efforts to advancing policies that strengthen — rather than undermine — the ability of immigrants to support themselves and their families. If we want our communities to thrive, everyone in those communities must be able to stay together and receive the care, services and support they need to remain healthy and productive.

Our partners at Kansas Appleseed have created a form to register opposition to this destructive proposal at bit.ly/public_charge_comment. Please submit your comment today; the deadline is Dec. 10.


[1] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis.

[2] Fiscal Policy Institute. “Only Wealthy Immigrants Need Apply: How a Trump Rule’s Chilling Effect Will Harm the U.S.” October 10, 2018. http://fiscalpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/US-Impact-of-Public-Charge.pdf

[3] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis.

[4] Current definition is modeled as: Personally receiving more in TANF, SSI, and General Assistance than in earnings or in a family that receives more in TANF, SSI, and General Assistance than earnings.

[5] Proposed definition is modeled as: Personally receiving any SNAP, Medicaid/CHIP, housing assistance, SSI, TANF, or General Assistance.

[6] Fiscal Policy Institute. “Only Wealthy Immigrants Need Apply: How a Trump Rule’s Chilling Effect Will Harm the U.S.” October 10, 2018. http://fiscalpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/US-Impact-of-Public-Charge.pdf

[7] Fiscal Policy Institute. “Only Wealthy Immigrants Need Apply: How a Trump Rule’s Chilling Effect Will Harm the U.S.” October 10, 2018. http://fiscalpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/US-Impact-of-Public-Charge.pdf

ClayKansas Center for Economic Growth speaks out against anti-immigrant ‘public charge’ proposal