OFA publishes PI on reimbursement obligations of sponsors of noncitizens and procedures for recovering TANF funds

HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) today issued guidance to state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) agencies regarding the reimbursement obligations of sponsors of non-citizens and procedures for recovering TANF funds from non-citizen sponsors. Today’s guidance responds to the memorandum the president issued on May 23, 2019, titled “Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens,” which directs relevant federal agencies to update or issue procedures and guidance as needed, to ensure compliance with the sponsor deeming and repayment obligations under current law.

In accordance with the presidential memo, ACF has drafted a new program instruction (PI) that re-emphasizes a 2003 PI largely focused on the deeming of an immigrant sponsor’s financial resources and its applicability to TANF programs. The new PI, TANF-ACF-PI-2019-01, also provides additional guidance on the reimbursement obligations of sponsors and recovery of costs from sponsors within TANF programs.

Most legal immigrants are barred from receiving federal means-tested benefits, including TANF, for five years from the date they enter the United States (illegal immigrants are not eligible to receive TANF). After that period, the law generally requires states to include or “deem” the income of the sponsors of most immigrants in determining the immigrant’s eligibility for TANF because it is a federal means-tested benefit.

The sponsors of the affected immigrants are also responsible for reimbursing the state agency for the cost of most benefits provided to the sponsored immigrant. These rules only apply to lawful permanent residents with a sponsor who has executed form I-864 Affidavit of Support. Today’s guidance does not issue new policy but rather provides clarifying information to states in several areas, including:

  • the federal laws governing the ability of legal immigrants to apply for and receive TANF cash assistance.
  • when states must deem the income of a sponsor to be available to the sponsored immigrant.
  • the procedures for recovering from a sponsor the costs of any unreimbursed federal means-tested public benefit.

“We are hoping that the information contained in this guidance will help states improve the implementation of these statutory requirements,” said Clarence Carter, director of the Office of Family Assistance at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families. “This guidance provides clarity, as directed by the president, on the reimbursement obligations of sponsors of immigrants who receive TANF.”