The Urban Institute recently published a paper, “Adults in Low-Income Immigrant Families Were Deeply Affected by the COVID-19 Crisis yet Avoided Safety Net Programs in 2020,” which shares responses to the December 2020 Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey of 1,076 adults in low-income immigrant families. More than half of low-income immigrants saw negative effects on employment caused by the pandemic, and more than one in five struggled to pay rent, mortgage, or utility bills in the last year. Despite these hardships, 27.5% of adults in low-income immigrant families reported avoiding noncash benefits due to immigration concerns in 2020, with 9.8% avoiding housing assistance for this reason.
The Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey is a nationally representative online survey of more than 7,500 adults ages 18 to 64 (see Memo, 4/26 for more on this survey). The authors examined responses from 1,076 adults who were born outside the U.S. or who live with one or more foreign-born family members, and whose family incomes are below 200% of the federal poverty level.
Low-income immigrant families experienced significant material hardship in 2020. More than one in five adults in low-income immigrant families (22.6%) reported problems paying utility bills in 2020, and 21.7% reported problems paying rent or mortgage. An even higher share was worried about being able to make future payments: 44.4% of adults in families with naturalized citizens, 51.7% of adults in families with green card holders, and 57.4% of adults in families with nonpermanent residents were worried about being able to pay their rent or mortgage.
Immigrant families in the U.S. face systemic barriers to safety-net-program participation, including language and cultural barriers, lack of information, fears about immigration consequences, and administrative barriers. While many lawfully present noncitizens do not qualify for SNAP, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, some programs do not limit eligibility due to citizenship status, including certain housing assistance programs. The law establishing the Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program does not impose restrictions based on immigration status. See the NLIHC ERA program FAQ for more information.
Despite being eligibile for many programs, some immigrant families were dissuaded in 2020 from relying on safety net programs because of confusion and fear around the Trump administration’s public charge regulations, which threatened the immigration status of families receiving some forms of assistance. The Public Charge Rule was vacated nationwide in March 2021 (see Memo, 3/15/21).
While low-income immigrant families were most likely to avoid medical and nutrition benefits, they also avoided housing assistance. Nearly 1 in 10 adults in low-income immigrant families (9.8%) reported avoiding all housing assistance programs due to immigration concerns. Among adults in families with naturalized citizens, 3.5% avoided seeking long-term housing subsidies, compared to 4.9% of adults in families with green card holders and 12.2% of adults in families with nonpermanent residents. Some immigrant families were even likelier to avoid emergency rental assistance programs: 6.9% of adults in families with green card holders and 12.4% of adults in families with nonpermanent residents avoided emergency rental assistance programs due to immigration concerns.
Learn more about which housing programs have immigration-status eligibility criteria at: Frequently Asked Questions: Eligibility For Assistance Based On Immigration Status
Read the full report at: https://urbn.is/3idakVd