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Immigrants and Welfare Reform: Glossary
By MPI Staff
Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC): Authorized under the Social
Security Act of 1935, AFDC provided financial assistance to families with children who were
deprived of support due to the unemployment, death, disability, or absence of at least one parent.
AFDC was replaced by PRWORA in 1996.
Food Stamps: A federal government program that provides food stamps for individuals
who work for low wages, are unemployed or work part-time, receive public assistance, are elderly
or disabled and have a small income, or are homeless. Food stamp recipients spend their benefits
(in the form of paper coupons or electronic benefits on debit cards) to buy eligible food in
authorized retail food stores. States pay the costs of determining eligibility and distributing
the stamps. (More Information)
Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs): Any person not a citizen of the United States who is legally residing in the US as an immigrant.
Maintenance of Effort: In order to receive TANF funds, states must spend some of their own dollars on programs for needy families. This is what is known as the "maintenance of effort" (MOE) requirement. (More Information)
Medicaid: A jointly funded, federal-state health insurance program for certain
low-income and needy people. It covers approximately 36 million individuals including children,
the aged, blind, and/or disabled, and people who are eligible to receive federally assisted
income maintenance payments.
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA): Enacted by Congress
and signed into law in August 1996, PRWORA changed the nation's welfare system into one that
requires employment in exchange for time-limited assistance.
Pre-enactment Immigrants: Immigrants lawfully residing in the United States on or before August 22, 1996, the enactment date of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. States were given the option to use federal funds for pre-enactment immigrants for most programs and mandated to provide SSI and food stamps for certain categories of immigrants such as children, the disabled, and the elderly.
Post-enactment Immigrants: Immigrants who arrive legally in the United States after August 22, 1996. Most post-enactment immigrants are ineligible for federal means-tested programs for five years, with a state option after that. Post-enactment immigrants remain ineligible for SSI and food stamps until they naturalize.
Qualified Immigrants: Lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees (defined below), persons paroled into the United States for at least one year, battered spouses and children, those given either the 40 quarters or military exemptions (defined below).
SCHIP: In 1997, Congress established the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides health insurance to low-income children who do not qualify for Medicaid and have no health insurance. (More information)
- Refugees/Asylees: Those admitted for humanitarian reasons from abroad under the US Refugee Act of 1980, persons admitted as asylees, persons with deportation/removal withheld, Cuban-Haitian entrants, Amerasians.
- 40 quarters exemption: Legal permanent residents who have worked at least 40 qualifying quarters as defined by the Social Security Act are exempted from certain bars on eligibility. No credit is given for quarters worked after Dec. 31, 1996 if the immigrant received a federal means-tested benefit in that quarter. Credit is also given for work performed by: (1) their parent (before the immigrant reaches age 18); (2) their spouse during the marriage (unless the marriage ended in divorce or annulment).
- Military exemption: Noncitizens are exempt from bars on eligibility if they are or were: (1) on active duty (currently); (2) honorably discharged; (3) the spouse, unremarried surviving spouse, or unmarried dependent child of a veteran or active-duty service member; (4) Filipino war veteran who fought under US command in World War II.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): A federal monthly income supplement program
funded by general tax revenues designed to help aged, blind, and disabled adults and children who
have little or no income. It provides financial assistance to the needy to meet their basic
needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): TANF was created by the Welfare
Reform Law of 1996 and became effective July 1, 1997. It replaced what was then commonly known
as welfare: Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the Job Opportunities and Basic
Skills Training (JOBS) programs. TANF provides assistance and work opportunities to needy families
by granting states the federal funds and wide flexibility to develop and implement their own
Unqualified Immigrants: An immigrant not falling within the qualified immigrant group. This group includes undocumented immigrants, asylum applicants, immigrants formerly considered Permanently Residing Under Color of Law (PRUCOL), as well as those with temporary status such as students and tourists.
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