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Immigrants Needing Food Benefits In Western Mass. May Still Fear 'Public Charge' Rule

Joel Muniz
Creative Commons

A food bank official says some immigrants in western Massachusetts are not getting federal benefits they're eligible for.

Trump's "public charge" rule made it harder for immigrants to use federal benefits, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The rule was rescinded earlier this year.

But Christina Maxwell of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts said many immigrants in Hampden County still think the rule is in effect.

"A lot of people thought, 'I better not apply for benefits,'" Maxwell said. "'I better not go to a food pantry. I better not get free school meals for my kid, because it might affect our immigration status.'"

Maxwell said fear drove a 35% drop in participation of SNAP-eligible children from 2016 to 2019.

Cindy Stovall of the Gándara Center in Springfield said they aim to reassure applicants.

"I pride ourselves on not requiring proof of your citizenship as a deterrent to receiving something that you need: food," Stovall said.

Both the Food Bank and Gándara offer bilingual SNAP-enrollment services.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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