Research has confirmed that the lead up to and rollout of the Trump public charge policy created a pronounced “chilling effect,” with immigrants and their family members disenrolling from or failing to enroll in critical health, nutrition, and economic supports for which they were eligible. The Trump policy took effect just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, which has amplified the health and economic harm of the pandemic. Public health experts now warn that its lasting effects threaten COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Research showed that the announcement of the public charge regulations was associated with a decrease in Medicaid enrollment of approximately 260,000 children from 2017 levels. Each figure represents 5,000 children.

A growing body of research documents the damage done by public charge. Moreover, even though the Trump-era policy is no longer in effect, there continues to be lasting impacts on immigrants and their family members’ willingness to access public benefits.

With support from our partners at No Kid Hungry, PIF released a December 2021 poll of immigrant families. The poll validated concerns about the reach and impact of the public charge chilling effect, finding that more than 3/4 of immigrant families had not heard the Biden Administration had reversed the Trump public charge policy.

Research and providers’ reports, in concert with our nation’s interest in ensuring that everyone can access health care and economic supports during the pandemic, support the following actions:

PIF also released a poll in January 2022, finding that 3/4 of Americans back restoring safety net access for immigrant families. This research supports the political viability of legislation to restore safety net access for millions in immigrant families.

Interested in contributing to more research? Consider joining the PIF Research Working Group