Revised: June 29, 1998
The Ag. Research Act Restores Food Stamps
to Some Vulnerable Immigrants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 250,000 low-income legal immigrants would have their eligibility for food stamps restored under the Agriculture Research, Extension and Education Reform Act (Public Law No. 105-185) enacted on June 23, 1998. This legislation allows some of the most vulnerable groups of legal immigrants, such as the elderly, the disabled, children and certain refugees and asylees, whose eligibility the 1996 welfare law eliminated, to receive food stamps if they meet the program's other eligibility requirements. These changes generally are consistent with the SSI and Medicaid changes enacted as part of the Balanced Budget Act last year.
The immigrant food stamp restoration package included in the Agriculture Research bill consists of the following provisions, all of which would take effect on November 1, 1998. Most benefit restorations only benefit those immigrants who were living in the United States before the welfare law was enacted on August 22, 1996.
- Disabled: Allows benefits for persons who were lawfully present in the U.S. on August 22, 1996, who are disabled now or become eligible for SSI, disability-based Medicaid, or some other disability benefits in the future.
- Elderly: Allows persons who were at least 65 years old on August 22, 1996, and were lawfully present in this country on that date to get food stamps.
- Children: Allows food stamp eligibility children under age 18 who were lawfully present in the United States on August 22, 1996.
- Extension of Eligibility from 5 Years to 7 Years for Refugees, etc.: Extends food stamp eligibility for refugees, asylees, Cuban/Haitian Entrants, Amerasians, and persons granted withholding of deportation from their first five years in the United States to their first seven years here. This parallels action taken for SSI and Medicaid in last year's Balanced Budget Act and applies to future entrants as well as those already in the United States in 1996.
- Hmong/Lao: Allows members of the Hmong and other Highland Lao tribes, their spouses, widows, and children to qualify. This provision is intended to grant assistance to persons who fought on behalf of the United States during the Vietnam War as well as to those individual's families.
- Cross-Border Native Americans: Native Americans with treaty rights to cross the U.S. borders with Canada or Mexico will be permitted to receive food stamps whether or not they were born on this side of the border.
The cost of these expansions is financed by changing the accounting rules under which states charge the administrative expenses shared by the TANF, food stamps and Medicaid programs to prevent states from charging to the food stamp program administrative costs that the AFDC program historically paid. The bill also reduces funding for the food stamp employment and training (FS E&T) program for two years.