Member Press Release: Proposed Public Charge rule would undermine efforts to fight hunger and poverty

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A statement attributed to Larry Sly, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano

CONCORD, September 23, 2018 - The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano strongly opposes the proposed public charge rule announced this weekend by the Department of Homeland Security. This proposal would make it extremely difficult for many immigrants to come to the U.S. or receive green cards if they are determined likely to become a "public charge," which would include using public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as CalFresh).
This proposed rule targets low-income immigrant families that legally access benefits to help meet their basic needs, but it has had widespread chilling effect throughout the immigrant community. Over the past month, 1 in 5 individuals approached by the Food Bank's SNAP outreach workers have declined to apply for food assistance due to immigration fears.

Our staff have even heard from naturalized U.S. citizens - who would never be impacted by this policy - asking to terminate SNAP benefits for themselves and their citizen children out of fear that it may affect their immigration status. Whether this proposal directly targets them or not, the threat of public charge is forcing immigrants to make impossible choices between keeping their families together and accessing vital programs that safeguard their health and well-being.

Only 71.8% of eligible Californians actually use SNAP benefits, and anti-immigrant proposals like this threaten our local efforts to improve program access and participation. Every $1 in SNAP generates $1.79 in economic activity, and the program has long-term benefits for participating children's health and economic outcomes. Public charge threatens the nutrition, health and shared prosperity of our communities.

The Food Bank has joined the national Protecting Immigrant Families campaign to help mobilize the public to condemn this attack on our nation's health and well-being. We will soon share model comments to submit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We urge you to join us in denouncing this mean-spirited proposal, which will undermine decades of progress in reducing hunger in this country.
Carly Finkle
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