Representatives Jayapal and Cardenas Introduce Bill to Expand Health Care, Nutrition Assistance, Housing, and Other Supports for Immigrants

Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) introduced on September 10 the “Lifting Immigrant Families Through Benefits Access Restoration Act of 2021,” or the “LIFT the BAR Act.” The legislation would restore access to public programs for lawfully present immigrants by removing five-year waiting period and other restrictions to accessing federal public benefits. Affected programs would include Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, TANF, SSI, certain housing assistance, and other important services. NLIHC supports this legislation. 

The LIFT the BAR Act would restore access to these programs for lawfully present immigrants by:

  • Repealing key provisions of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) that 1) restrict lawfully present immigrants’ eligibility for federal assistance programs; 2) allow states to adopt more punitive restrictions; 3) erect barriers for states or localities that wish to use their funds to establish more inclusive programs; and 4) restrict or deter access to critical services for immigrants with sponsors
  • Removing the five-year waiting period in Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, TANF, and SSI
  • Redefining “qualified noncitizens,” a term used to define eligibility for many federal programs, to include any individuals who are lawfully present in the U.S.
  • Providing that individuals who have access to Affordable Care Act health insurance under current rules will not lose access to affordable coverage if they remain ineligible for Medicaid

The bill would align Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 with the changes made in PRWORA would expand and make consistent eligibility requirements for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), immigrants who are granted Special Immigrant Status (SIJS), and any other non-citizens federally authorized to be present in the United States. Such a change would allow access to federal housing programs such as public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 project-based rental assistance, and some rural housing programs.

“As an immigrant who came to this country alone at the age of 16, I am proud to introduce legislation that finally eliminates senseless, harmful, and xenophobic barriers to health care, nutrition assistance, and other life-changing public benefits for immigrant families,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “As COVID-19 disproportionately impacts immigrants who are heroically serving on the frontlines of this crisis, the LIFT the BAR Act is an urgent, necessary, and just step towards ensuring they have access to the care, relief, and support they need and deserve—during a pandemic and beyond.”

Read a press release about the LIFT the BAR Act at:

Read the bill at: