Safety Net Benefits

Created May 2010

Can Haitian immigrants get state-funded benefits? 

Massachusetts provides state-funded cash assistance for persons who are elderly (age 65+), severely disabled or caring for a distantly related or an unrelated child.

But not your own?

The benefit is very small ($303/month) for a one-person household.  There are no state-funded Food Stamps/SNAP benefits for immigrants in Massachusetts.

The EAEDC program is available to “qualified aliens” including those who meet the federal requirements listed above, as well as legally present immigrants “under color of law”  (PRUCOL).  This includes immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), with pending adjustment for a green card, and other statuses. Many LPRs who are elder or disabled receive EAEDC due to the extremely difficult eligibility rules in the SSI program affecting immigrants. Contact an advocate if you have an elder or severely disabled Haitian client who is an LPR or otherwise in “qualified” status and was denied SSI. 

Sources:  DTA Regulations at 106 CMF 320.620(EAEDC), Mass Health Regulations at 130 C.M.R. §§ 504.002(F) (children and disabled adults), 519.013 (elderly).   DTA Non-Citizen Desk Guide, 2004 (re TPS and EAEDC benefits) // 
Created May 2010

If an ineligible Haitian is caring for a U.S. citizen child, can she or he apply for benefits for the child?

Yes.  An ineligible parent/caretaker can apply for benefits on behalf of child or family member who is a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, has humanitarian parole or meets some other “qualified alien” status. The ineligible parent/caretaker may not be included in the benefit amount paid for the child, but can be the authorized representative.

Parents or caretakers who apply for a U.S. citizen or legally present child, but not themselves, are not required to give DTA or MassHealth information on their immigration status or provide a SSN.  However, the natural or adoptive parents of a minor child (or spouse) are required to give information on any income and assets they have.  In determining the amount of food stamps or cash assistance, DTA will count parental income. Different income counting rules apply depending on the legal status of the parent and the program being sought. Contact a Legal Services advocate if there are questions about how DTA calculated the benefits for an eligible child.

Source:  DTA Brochure, What Non-Citizens Need to Know.  //; DTA Field Operations Memo 2004-34,  September 2004, TAFDC and Food Stamp Processing Guidelines for Non-Citizen Applications    // 
Created May 2010

Is there any cash or food assistance for Haitians granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?

On March 30th, the Obama Administration issued guidance stating that Haitians with TPS are not “qualified aliens” eligible for federal safety-net benefits.  This means that Haitians granted TPS are not eligible to receive food stamp/SNAP benefits, TAFDC cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid (Mass Health Standard) unless they also have one of the other statuses listed above (e.g. in deportation, order of supervision, pending asylum).  It is possible that some Haitians with TPS may also have one of these other statuses. If you have a client who needs these safety-net benefits, contact a local Legal Services office to find if this federal ruling has changed or if the individual may be eligible on other grounds. 

As noted above, elder or severely disabled Haitians with TPS may also be eligible for EAEDC cash assistance benefits.  Haitians with TPS who are caretakers of a U.S. citizen or “qualified” immigrant child or spouse can also apply for TAFDC, foods stamps/SNAP or SSI benefits for any child or spouse who is a U.S. citizen or meets the other rules for “qualified” status.  See Question 38 below.

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)Clarification on SNAP Eligibility of Haitians Granted TPS:   //;
Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Regulations at 106 CMR 362.220, (SNAP)  203.675 (TAFDC), 320.620(EAEDC  DTA Non-Citizen Desk Guide, 2004 (re TPS and EAEDC benefits) // 
Created May 2010

If I get benefits will it make me a “public charge” so that it will be harder for me to get permanent legal residency (my green card)?

Getting cash assistance may make it difficult to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. But Food Stamps (SNAP), WIC, Medicaid and a number of other government benefits are not considered benefits that would make you a public charge.  The, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated their fact sheet in October 20, 2009. The fact sheet lists the benefits that you can get that would not make you a public charge..  You can find more information on – list the other websites or ….from other websites.

Source:  USCIS Fact Sheets on Public Charge, October 2009: USCIS Guidance on Public Charge  National Immigration  Law Center, Federal Guidance on “Public Charge," //

Get Legal Help

Before you talk to USCIS always speak with an Immigration Specialist.

Get Legal Help

Before you talk to USCIS always speak with an Immigration Specialist.


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