What are public benefits?

Public benefits are help from the U.S. government. This includes money, healthcare, and needed services. Families with less money and some immigrants can get these benefits. Learn about public benefit programs and how to apply for them.

1. Public benefits for everyone

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

TANF helps families with low income in the USA. This program provides some cash to help families who meet the program requirements. You will need to use the money from TANF for the basic needs of your family. The program also helps to prepare people for work and family responsibilities. In some states, you are required to work as a volunteer to receive TANF. To apply for TANF, contact the TANF office in your state.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is to help people with disabilities, children, and people 65 and older without disabilities who have limited income and resources. All citizens get SSI and some non-citizens are eligible too. Learn about SSI for non-citizens.

An important note about SSI: Some refugees and other non-citizens who get SSI will stop getting it after 7 years. But if you become a citizen, you can continue to receive SSI for as long as you need it.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a benefit for people who cannot work because of a disability. Non-citizens and citizens can get only SSDI if they have worked and earned enough Social Security credits. You can find Social Security information in many languages.

Medicare and Medicaid

Medicaid is a program to provide healthcare for families with low income, pregnant women, and some adults in the US. This program is for all Americans with low income. Many states also have programs to provide free or low-cost medical care for children. Learn more about Medicaid.

Medicare is a program to provide healthcare for older adults (individuals over 65-years-old). This program also provides insurance for people with disabilities. Learn more about Medicare.

Going to the doctor in the USA can cost a lot of money. This is why health insurance can help you. Even if you have insurance, you might still have to pay some money to see a doctor.

What about public charge? If I get TANF or SSI, will that stop me from getting a green card or becoming a citizen?

“Public charge” means someone who uses public benefits for a long time. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says that someone who is likely to be a public charge cannot become a permanent resident (green card holder). USCIS says that people who receive SSI, TANF, Medicaid or cash assistance from their state may not be allowed to become permanent residents. Other benefits, such as school lunches and children’s health insurance, do not count. Please read about the new public charge rule to be informed about the risks of being considered a public charge.

You can also read more information from USCIS about the new changes.

2. Public benefits for refugees and asylees

The goal of public benefits for refugees and asylees is to provide for your basic needs until you are able to find a job. In the USA, you can only receive public benefits for a certain amount of time. This means once you start working and earning an income for your family, you will stop getting public benefits.

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