County of Marin - News Releases - Public Charge Policy

For Immediate Release
September 27, 2018

Food Assistance Programs at Risk

Proposed federal immigration policy change could reduce eligibility

San Rafael, CAAt a forum hosted by First 5 Marin, community members and local organizations gathered to hear new data regarding hunger and missing meals in Marin County.

Free bananas and apples sit on a table during Marin County's Fruit & Veggie Festival.The CalFresh program is one response to food insecurity in Marin. Under the federal proposal, fewer people would become eligible to receive CalFresh assistance.

About 150 people convened for the Marin Communications Forum discussion about hunger at the Embassy Suites hotel in San Rafael. Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) staff provided data that shows one in five Marin County residents are at risk of food insecurity. First 5 Marin, sometimes called the Marin County Children and Families Commission, and the Marin Community Foundation co-sponsored the session and had representatives there to discuss the topic as well.

For some Marin residents, participation in the federal CalFresh program, which provides nutritional assistance to those in need, is at risk because of a new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). On Saturday, September 22, DHS announced changes to the Public Charge rule, which assesses whether a person is likely to be dependent on government assistance. The Marin County Board of Supervisors authorized Board President Damon Connolly to sign an opposition petition by the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign in response to the proposed changes.

Previously, the only benefits considered public charge were cash assistance or long-term institutionalized medical care. Under the new proposal, Medicaid, Medicare Part D, Section 8 rental assistance, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known in California as CalFresh, would have a potential negative effect on immigration status.

The CalFresh program is one response to food insecurity in Marin. The statewide goal around CalFresh enrollment in this political climate and strong economy has been to hold steady. During this time, Marin HHS’ enrollment numbers have improved despite that every January the minimum wage increases, leaving fewer people eligible.

In keeping with other California counties, Marin HHS has boosted senior enrollment. At the same time, mixed households with citizen children have been on the decline, down to 1,106 in July 2017 from 1,323 of July 2014, potentially reflecting changes in federal immigration policies.

HHS has implemented strategies in the past year to encourage CalFresh participation, including the placing of eligibility workers in the community to assist with enrollment, on-demand appointments, enhanced use of technology, and ongoing collaborations with community partners.

“CalFresh enrollment in Marin and proposed changes to the Public Charge rule are linked,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Marin HHS Director. “HHS is concerned that changes to the Public Charge rule will further marginalize the very people who need these services most.”

Marin HHS plans to distribute more information of the Homeland Security policy change becomes official.


Kari Beuerman
Social Services Director
Department of Health and Human Services

20 N. San Pedro Rd.
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6263
Email: Kari Beuerman
Marin HHS website