Public Charge; What it is and how it affects you

**Note: these changes do not affect programs offered through the HSRC. Programs the HSRC offers are public education resources, not public services through the state**


Recently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made drastic changes to the way immigrants coming into the United States can get entry as well as to the way existing immigrants can apply for visas or green cards.

After attending the Public Charge Webinar for Oregon Service Providers, hosted by organizations like Causa and Oregon Law Center, the information that was provided to me was astounding. The changes to the Public Charge rule are important to our communities because as some in the webinar stated, folks have decided to discontinue using their benefits or applying for benefits altogether because of the misconceptions that came along with the change.

Public Rule under USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services):

“The final rule enables the federal government to better carry out the provisions of U.S. immigration law related to the public charge ground of inadmissibility. The final rule clarifies the factors considered when determining whether someone is likely at any time in the future to become a public charge is inadmissible under section 212(a)(4) of the INA, and therefore, ineligible for admission or adjustment of status.” Source

Under this new rule, USCIS states that this rule applies to: 

“applicants for admission, aliens seeking to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent residents from within the United States, and aliens within the United States who hold a nonimmigrant visa and seek to extend their stay in the same nonimmigrant classification or to change their status to a different nonimmigrant classification.” Source

“This has caused immigrant communities and families of mixed-status to discontinue applying for or receiving benefits that they are eligible for from the State of Oregon. This causes concern in the wider Human Services community. Spreading fear instead of accurate information on what this change actually does,” say some Causa staff members.

So what is Public Charge in plain language?

  • Public charge does not apply to every immigrant
  • Many public benefits do not count toward Public Charge
  • Public Charge benefits my benefit you and your family, not count against you
  • Public benefits =/= Public Charge

What is “Public Charge?”

  • “Public Charge” is a test that U.S. immigration officials apply when deciding if an immigrant will be permitted to stay or enter the country if they are “unable to take care of themselves without being a public charge” (USCIS, 2019).
  • The idea of Public Charge has been around for 100 years, and it’s been the same for the last 20 years
  • Public Charge has historically and continuously been used as a racialized tool to keep certain groups of people outside of the United States

What does the test look like?

  • The Public Charge test is when a federal immigration official decides whether an immigrant is going to, in the future, require more support of the U.S. Government
  • This is done by the official considering everything about a person
    • Their ability status, age, gender, etc.
  • The Public Charge test is only administered when someone is:
    • Applying to enter the U.S.
    • Applying to be a Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card)
    • A Lawful Permanent Resident re-enters the country after being outside of it for 180 consecutive days (6 months)
    • People who are applying for an extension of stay or current visas (as of Oct. 15, 2019)
    • Does NOT include when someone is applying to become a U.S. Citizen
    • Humanitarian Immigrants are exempt from this requirement, even if they are applying to become a Lawful Permanent Resident.

What is changing about the rule?

There are major changes happening to the definition of Public Charge. There are additional public benefits that are going to be considered by immigration officials, which we will name down below. There are also new “weighted” factors to the “totality of circumstances” test that make it harder for low and moderate income people to pass. One new requirement is that this test is also being extended to folks applying for extended visas or stay.

Changing Definitions

Another major change is how the USCIS is defining what a Public Charge is.

The old definition of a Public Charge was a person who was only using and living off of public benefits for most of their daily operations. Someone had to basically have nearly every single public benefit available to them and using it consistently to be considered a Public Charge.

Under this new definition, “any person who receives one or more public benefits… for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months.”

What does that mean?

  • If an immigrant is more than likely to use 12 months of benefits in a 3 year period
    • In the aggregate means, they will count each benefit someone receives in a month as its own single month.
      • So, if someone gets TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) payment in one month, an immigration official will count them as TWO months in that three year period.

What benefits count under this new rule?

The list of benefits that count for Public Charge has expanded from 3 programs to 6. The programs listed below count towards Public Charge:

  1. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  3. Long term care in an institution
  4. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  5. Non-Emergency Medicaid for non-pregnant adults 21 or older
  6. Section 8 (vouchers and public based) Housing

Benefits that DON’T count towards Public Charge

  1. Children’s Oregon Health Plan (OHP), Cover All Kids, Emergency Medicaid, and Pregnant Medicaid
  2. Medicaid/Children’s Insurance Program for 21 and under and Pregnant folks up to 60 days postpartum
  3. Head Start
  4. School/Summer Meals
  5. Special Education (SpEd)
  6. Medicare (including Part D low-income subsidies)
  7. Social Security Retirement
  8. Unemployment Insurance
  9. Food boxes/Food banks
  10. Anything NOT listed above this section
  11. Workers comp
  12. Community Health Clinics
  13. Low Income Home Energy Assistance

“Totality of Circumstances” Test

The totality of circumstances test is based mainly on the finances of the person applying to come into the United States. Through this, there have also been some substantial changes.

For example:

  • Households whose income is at least 250% above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) are weighed in their favor.
  • Households whose income is at 125% above the FPL or below is heavily weighted against them.

Other things that are considered in the totality of circumstances are:

  • Family size
  • Age (18-61, working-age)
  • Not working – weighed against
  • Education
  • Skills and employment (unemployment weighed against)
  • English proficiency
  • Health and medical condition
    • Serious conditions indicate a negative factor
  • Availability of private (subsidized) health insurances
  • Credit scores
  • Past use of public benefits (only those defined).

How do immigration officials know about the ToC factors?

The I-944 Form or “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency” is filled out when folks are applying to be in the United States. If this is a form you personally haven’t had to fill out, then there shouldn’t be anything that can affect you. The form itself is about 18 pages long and takes a long time to fill out, though the federal government estimates it takes about 4.5 hours, it’s estimated to take much longer.

It’s important to remember that this post doesn’t answer the questions for everyone. Individual cases are unique and require unique answers. The positive factors in applying and getting public assistance can counterbalance the perceived negative outcomes of this new rule. The use of Public Benefits alone won’t make you a public charge. The risks to not getting the health care, nutrition and housing assistance you need are there and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

There are many categories of immigrants that are exempt from this public charge rule:

  • Refugees and asylees
  • Survivors of trafficking, violence, and other serious crimes (T- & U- Visas)
  • VAWA Self-Petitioners
  • Certain people paroled into the U.S.
  • Special Immigrant juveniles and more

The public charge rule does not apply to Lawful Permanent Residents who need to renew their LPR Card or LPRs who are applying to naturalize and become U.S. citizens (as long as they don’t leave the U.S. for 180 days before becoming a citizen).

It’s also important to note that this rule is NOT retroactive. Meaning the changes won’t take effect until October 15, 2019, and the newly added benefits will only “count” if they are received on or after October 15, 2019. Applications for Lawful Permanent Residents will be processed using the old public charge rule if filed or postmarked before October 15, 2019.

Are the courts challenging this rule change?

Already, there have been 9 lawsuits filed against the Federal Department of Homeland Security for passing this rule. The legal challenges to the rule are pending and may delay or block its implementation — it’s important to stay informed!!!

Resources to refer to and stay informed:

Updates on Public Charge:

As of:

What is Fresh Food Friday?

What is Fresh Food Friday?

Fresh Food Friday is pantry service we provide the first Friday of every month. It is currently a two hour pantry held from 10:00am to 12:00pm. Coming soon in the fall, it’ll be a one hour pantry every first Friday. At FFF’s we only provide fresh produce from our garden or from Linn Benton Food Share, these differ from the Shopping Style Pantries where we walk clients through the pantry to get dry goods.

Why do we have a pantry dedicated to produce?

Ask yourself, how often you eat something that has come directly from a tree, the ground or a plant? Did you eat a fruit or vegetable today? Yesterday? Students don’t have easy access to affordable produce. That’s why we provide produce at our shopping style pantries as well as our Fresh Food Friday’s. The last year we learned a lot at the HSRC and our goal is for everyone who walks away from our Fresh Food Friday to have a few days worth of fresh produce.

Students and fresh produce? Is it an actual need?

To put it simply, yes! We also connect students to a resource here in Oregon called SNAP that can get them a monthly allowance to buy expensive items like produce. 

Below are some real examples of students expressing interest in produce.

“A few weeks ago, we helped a student sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps), connecting her to $192 in monthly grocery money. She was emotional as she shared that she’d been getting all her food from the dollar store and was so excited to be able to afford some fresh produce and buys salads again.” – Miguel Arellano Sanchez, Basic Needs Navigator at HSRC

“Having SNAP has been so great. I am less stressed about buying food. My month started again last week. I invited my friends over for dinner this Sunday and I even bought asparagus & salad!” – Student

– Breonna



Saving While Spending

As students, many of us are constantly delegating our money to meet our basic needs. Between bills, textbooks, groceries, tuition, etc., there isn’t always any money in the budget for new clothing or decorating your space. Sometimes you have a little extra money and you’d like to get yourself something new. This is an opportunity to practice your smart shopping and get the most out of your money. 

Here are three things I do to save money when I’m shopping for clothing, food, or household goods:


  • Check clearance sections
    • Items can be on clearance for a million different reasons. When seasons change, so do the types of clothing, food, and household items at stores. Oregon is rainy nine months of the year, so take advantage of the clearance fall clothing and jackets that could be marked down as much as 80% in some places. These items could be useful for months to come in Oregon weather. I have also scored some of my favorite foods on clearance for a fraction of the price because they were approaching their sell-by date. Remember that many foods that have passed their date are still safe to consume!

The best clearance sections I have found in the Corvallis area are: TJ Maxx, Ross, Tuesday Morning, Safeway (specifically the Philomath Blvd location), and Fred Meyer.

  •  Shop Second Hand
    • Thrift stores are a great place to check, and second hand items are often heavily discounted. Goodwill has discounts on a different colors of tags each week! However, it is important to be mindful of what the rough retail price of items before you can be sure you got a good deal. Specialty thrift stores, such as ones that sell primarily vintage clothing, aren’t always as affordable as those that sell everything.

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are both great resources for finding deals and also an opportunity to put your bargaining skills to work. In my experience, most sellers are willing to accept the best offers on their items. These are also great places to check for free items- especially during move out season (particularly the end of Winter and Spring terms) when folks are leaving Corvallis and get rid of things they no longer need. 

  • Compare prices
    • A mistake I made when I first began shopping on my own was buying the first item I saw on sale without checking the quality and quantity of the products to make sure I was actually getting a good deal.
      • When shopping for food, check the price per unit to ensure you’re shopping smart. For example: A box of 10 pudding cups for $2 may seem like a good deal, but you checked the prices and they’re 6 for $1 individually. By checking the price per unit, you’ve not only saved money but ended up getting 12 pudding cups for $2! That’s two for free and you saved some pocket change.
      • If you’re looking for something simple, like a black T-Shirt, check a thrift store for something that could work before heading to a department store. You may find what you need and save some money.

I hope these tips serve you well and allow you to save a few bucks the next time you’re out shopping!

Accessing HealthCare

Navigating healthcare can be tricky, here is a break down on how to access affordable healthcare and coverage plans

Oregon Health Plan

What is it?

  • The Oregon Health Plan (OHP) provides health care coverage for Oregonians from all walks of life. This includes working families, children, pregnant women, single adults and seniors.


  • Physical health: Doctor visits, preventive services to help you stay healthy, tests to find out about your health, treatment for most major diseases, emergency ambulance and 24-hour emergency care, family planning services, and pregnancy and newborn care.
  • Behavioral health: Mental health and counseling, and help with addiction to tobacco, alcohol and drugs. (You do not need a referral from your primary care provider for these services.)
  • Dental health: Cleanings and preventive treatments, dental check-ups and x-rays, fillings, tooth removal, 24-hour emergency care.
  • Prescriptions: OHP with Limited Drug only includes drugs not covered by Medicare Part D.
  • Eye care: Medical care; glasses to treat a qualifying medical condition such as aphakia or keratoconus, or after cataract surgery.
  • Vision care: Exams and glasses (only for pregnant women and children under age 21).
  • Other needs: OHP can pay for hearing aids, medical equipment, home health care, skilled therapy, hospital care, and rides to health care appointment

Who is eligible/can apply

  • To get OHP, individuals must meet certain income and asset requirements and other non-financial eligibility requirements such as residency and citizenship/alien status.
  • CAWEM is an emergency only coverage that you can only use in a hospital ER visit, typically those who are undocumented are eligible to receive this kind of Medicaid
  • Those who are pregnant and meet income eligibility
  • Immigrant children and teens younger than 19 who meet income and other criteria. This includes youth with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

How to apply and where to get help with the application process

  • One can apply online through the Oregon Health Plan website
  • There are multiple health navigator trained to help people apply, those in you area can be found online at OHPHelp 

Free clinics around Linn-Benton County

  • Linn-Benton County department
  • By using the website it is possible to search nearby income based clinics within your area

Student Health Services

  • Options at OSU:
    • Student health fees covering some services
    • Insurance through SHS partnership with PacificSource and The First Health Network
  • Student fees covers:
    • Visits with SHS psychiatrist (with referral from SHS clinician)
    • Most office visits (excludes all lab work or procedures)
    • Nutrition consults with a registered dietitian
    • Health coaching services
    • Access to health and wellness web resources, including Healthier at School® Online Self-Care Guide
    • Health promotion outreach programming and events
    • Nurse advice by phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
    • Toll-free long distance access to Student Health (1-877-824–9355)

Other options

  • Co-pay/payment plans/appealing payment:
    • Some hospitals will offer payment forgiveness when submitting an application that demonstrates the financial burden of the medical cost
    • There are payment plans one can set in place to help reduce financial burdens and do not always build interest
    • Co-payments allow for a percent of your visit be covered by you insurance provider or the hospital and a percentage comes out of your pocket
  • Sponsorship: There are some specific illnesses that have non-profit organizations in which they can help with your bills costs for example We Care and Can offers financial support related to healthcare cost to people in need.

*Most of this information was found online at OHP

My experience as a new member in the HSRC team!

Human services resource center (HSRC) is located in Champinefu Lodge at the Oregon State University. I first came to know about the HSRC when my roommate told me that “There’s this awesome place that puts money in your student card for food.” I went onto their website and learned that not only with food insecurity but HSRC helps people with textbooks, housing, and other facilities like free laundry, showers and printing etc.

Being a student, especially an international student, it is very hard to take care of yourself while dealing with the school stress. There’s so many students who just eat one meal and get through the day with that. One thing I learned throughout my time in OSU is that taking care of your health is more important than anything. Nobody should skip their meals to buy course materials; but unfortunately, we all do for our own reasons.

I always wanted to work at a place that helps people making their lives a little easier. I was searching a lot, and then I found out HSRC had a job opening. I knew this was it. I was always so impressed by the HSRC team and what they did for students and the OSU community. I applied for the job as  Textbook Lending Program Coordinator and got this job after going through an in-person interview.

The first person I met here was Erica. She was one of the GTA’s who worked with us and guide our way. After my first interaction with Erica, I knew working at the HSRC was going to be a great experience. She introduced me to the awesome team we have here, and gave me a full tour of the place. Each one of our team members welcomed me as if they knew me from earlier. They all were so welcoming and made sure I was comfortable and all settled here. I love asking questions and for my luck, people here at the HSRC love helping you with any concerns too. The work place is highly open for new ideas and our boss makes sure we all are heard and gives us the required feedback. We have staff meetings every other week where we discuss every possible work related agenda, and where we give our feedback to our boss on how things are working overall. I believe these meetings are a great way to discuss any negatives, or positives happening at our workplace. Other than that, we have one-to-one interactions with one of our GTAs every other week. In these conversations we can talk about anything work related or our personal lives. These interactions helped me a lot to lower my school stress and to ask any random questions about work.

Overall, my first term working at the HSRC has been great. I learned a lot about our food pantry, textbook program, SNAP program and all the other amazing services that we have here. I love our team, and their enthusiasm to help others. I am looking forward to my time here in the coming terms.

How the Human Services Resource Center (HSRC) helped me

The summer of 2018 was a difficult time; I experienced severe food and housing insecurity. I was homeless and had to look through trash bins for cans/bottles to deposit in order to eat.

In July, I met with Miguel Arellano, the Basic Needs Navigator at the HSRC to talk about Emergency Housing. Unfortunately, this resource was unavailable during the summer. However, we brainstormed other solutions and he shared resources regarding housing insecurity with me. I ended up couch surfing at different friends houses. Miguel was very nice and committed to help me through this difficult time. He asked if I was experiencing food insecurity as well and informed me about SNAP benefits (food stamps). Not only did he help me apply for SNAP, which I now receive, but also put some money on my student ID card which allowed me to grab something to eat on campus so I could focus on my classes. All these resources and connections helped me more than words can describe.

I also met with Nicole Hindes, the Assistant Director of the HSRC who welcomed me and shared other resources the HSRC offers. She informed me of the shower students are able to use and set me up with a locker to store my belongings. This helped tremendously as it relieved me from carrying my stuff around and worrying my car would get broken into (as most of my belonging were in my car).

I think it is important for people to know what the Human Services Resource Center does and the resources it offers students experiencing any basic needs insecurities.

This is my story. This is how the HSRC and their staff helped me. They are incredible people! They make THE difference! They care. I will always remember the generous helping hand they offered me.

Submitted Anonymously by an HSRC student

Cherish your Perishables

Our primary supplier of fresh produce is LBFS. The fresh produced is ordered along with perishable goods. Once the delivery is made the fresh produce is inspected for rotten, squished and moldy produce. Then the quality approved produced is stored in the cooler present in the community kitchen.

HSRC cooler for fresh produce and other perishable items. The cooler is also used to store eggs, margarine and fresh milk. 

Produce for the People is the primary community partner we obtain fresh produce from in addition to the produce received by LBFS.  

Sometimes, HSRC staff goes out to different organizations when they have produce to donate.

The HSRC also has a garden which was built and maintained in partnership with the OSU Center for Civic Engagement. When the garden is in full production, we will harvest produce for pantries from there. When planting produce in the garden we usually conduct a survey with our patrons on what they would like to be planted in the garden.

The HSRC garden

For the Pantries, the produce is laid out in crates and trays almost 30 minutes before the start of the pantry and restocked from the cooler once it is low in quantity by our volunteers and staff members.

Get to know our staff: Arisa Larmay Barrientos

Name:  Arisa Larmay Barrientos

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

HSRC Job Title: Textbook Lending Program Assistant

Major: BS in Microbiology and BS in Nutrition

Minor: Chemistry

Career Aspirations: My career aspirations include going to medical school and becoming a doctor- specifically an Anesthesiologist. I want to educate and advocate for people who are not able to cover their healthcare expenses or have opted out of treatment because it was a financial burden.

Why did you want to work at the HSRC?  Last summer, I went through a difficult time. I was homeless, couch surfing with friends, would pick cans/bottles out of the trash and recycling to buy something to eat and didn’t know what was next. I ended up meeting with Miguel, our Basic Needs Navigator at the HSRC to talk about emergency housing and my life turned around. He connected me with resources to help me get out of the difficult time I was going through. When I heard the HSRC was hiring I knew I had to be a part of this team. It’s a wonderful feeling when you find out about a resource that improves your life. That’s what we do here.

What do you like to do in your free time? I like to dance and stay active. I also like helping others and giving back. Thus, I started a nonprofit called We Care & Can* with a mission to provide financial support to people who don’t have health insurance, their health insurance does not cover certain health related treatments or the large copays and high deductibles have left them with large healthcare bills.  We do this by collecting can/bottle donations. Donate your cans/bottles on campus to any of the following locations:

  • Ettihad Cultural Center- SEC 380
  • Science Success Center- Kidder 109
  • LSAMP Center- Waldo 123
  • Cesar Chavez Cultural Center
  • Women and Gender Center
  • Pride Center

What’s your favorite yummy and cheap meal? I really like cheerios with yogurt or carrots with hummus. You get a balance of proteins, carbs and fats.

Do you have any tips for students on how to save money? Use coupons or discounts. The Student Survival Kit has some great coupons! Sometimes the Memorial Union has extra so go ask at the informational desk. If you sign up for TOGOS you get $3 off. Check out OSU’s calendar free food events and @eatfreeOSU on Twitter or @hsrcosu on Instagram. Sign up for SNAP benefits, if you have questions feel free to contact us to set up a meeting at 541-737-3747.

What are your favorite things to do in Corvallis? I like to get a blended black tea with peach and passion fruit from Dutch and go to either of my two “secret” spots to clear my head, think and take a break from school.


*We Care & Can is in the process of becoming a registered 501(c)(3).

Get to Know Our Staff: Rosalie

Name: Rosalie Bernabe

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

HSRC Job Title: Food Pantry Assistant

Major/Minor: Psychology with French minor

Career Aspirations: My biggest goal is to start a charity to give scholarships/grants to students of color with mental illnesses. I also want to open a private practice and offer as many free services to low-income communities as possible. I want to travel and connect with people from different cultures and learn their languages/dialects.

Why did you want to work at the HSRC? I wanted to join the team of amazing people doing amazing things. This was a great opportunity for me to become more involved and learn about ways to help people gain access to necessary resources.

What do you like to do in your free time? I love dancing- if all else fails, I will become a dance instructor. I also enjoy writing, reading, snacking (a lot), watching movies, and hanging out with friends.

What’s your favorite yummy and cheap meal? Instant noodles are awesome. Also, the HSRC has a “Forgot your Lunch?” area and a twitter to keep up with free food events on campus @eatfreeOSU.

Do you have any tips for students on how to save money? Open a savings account, put money in it every paycheck, and tell yourself it isn’t yours. You could also put money in jars for specific events or goals. Having someone to hold you accountable (friends/family members) is also helpful, but it’s important to remember they won’t always be there to do so.

What are your favorite things to do in Corvallis? I love taking walks around campus and downtown; the scenery is just tooo good! Whenever we feel overwhelmed, my friends and I like to go on random adventures.

Recipe: Banana Pancakes

As college students we hardly have time to have breakfast. Having something to eat before starting the day keeps our energy up and makes it a little easier to go on with the day! For our cooking class we prepared easy breakfast recipes that you all can try. This recipe was adapted from Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown. We have several copies of the book, you are welcome to come check out the cookbook!

Banana Pancakes:

Serves 4 (Makes 10-15)                                                           


2 cups all purpose flour

¼ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

4 bananas

2 eggs

1.5 cups of milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Syrup for serving

  1. Combine the flour, brown sugar,baking powder,baking soda, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Mix thoroughly with a spoon.
  2. In another bowl, mash 2 of the bananas with a fork. Add the eggs,milk and vanilla, and mix well to combine.
  3. Add the dry mixture to the bananas, stirring with a spoon until everything just comes together. Tender pancakes come from not over mixing the batter.
  4. Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile slice the 2 remaining bananas.
  5. Turn the griddle to medium heat. Once its hot, melt a small amount of butter, about ½ teaspoon, in the skillet and ladle some pancake batter into the center of the pan.

Cook until it’s browned on both sides, about 30 seconds to 1 minute per side.

Serve hot with syrup plus the remaining banana slices.