The COVID-19 meltdown has been reminding me a lot of the previous economic crisis we experienced back in 2008 – 2011. My husband, Andrew Gates, is a home-builder and he was our family’s main support back then when I was working at Catholic Charities, earning very little, and paying big law school debts. Suddenly, Andrew’s work just evaporated and he had no income. Our third child was a newborn. We thought we were going to lose our house, our cars, everything. We went through a lot of panic. We were sued by our credit card company. We made lots of mistakes. But we made it through to the other side.
I learned some valuable lessons from that experience about how to get through times like these, and I have compiled them into a list of tips, which I invite you to download here. I hope that my hard-earned lessons can make things at least a bit easier for you and your family during this crisis.
We at WGV want all of our friends and clients to know that using available resources to get through this time (including unemployment benefits) will NOT be counted against you for public charge purposes.
If you are undocumented, you probably do not qualify for unemployment benefits, but please know that in Texas evictions have been paused, as have many home foreclosures. Many utility companies (electric, gas, water, phone, and internet) are currently NOT disconnecting service for failure to pay are offering generous repayment schedules.
Regardless of your immigration status, it is safe to call 3-1-1 or visit the City of Austin’s Community Resources page to learn about resources available to you and your family for food, health care, utilities, housing, and transportation.
In addition, many private organizations have set up assistance funds for workers who have been laid off. For example, there are funds available for employees of hotels, restaurants and delivery drivers. These are privately funded assistance programs, and applying for them will NOT harm your immigration case.
Finally, emergency medical assistance will not be counted against anyone for public charge purposes. And as always, if your U.S. citizen spouse or children are receiving public benefits such as food assistance (a.k.a. food stamps), Medicaid, CHiP, or WIC, talk to a trusted immigration attorney before making any changes to those benefits.
If you have questions about your specific case and benefits you are considering, please reach out to us at [email protected]
All of the news about the new “public charge” rules is creating a lot of confusion. If you are applying for residency through a family member, you need to know what is MOST important about the new rules, and tune out the rest. So … what is MOST important?
Is it your kids’ Medicaid? No.
Is it your kids’ food stamps? No.
Is it your WIC benefits? No.
(You should not change any of these benefits, if you have them – they do not count against you in the “public charge” determination.)
The answer is kind of boring: It’s your paperwork.
It’s your taxes, your bank statements, your pay stubs, your car insurance, your health insurance, your property and vehicle titles. Boring things like this. And especially your TAXES.
Your TAXES are the way that you communicate to the Federal Government that you are contributing to the national economy and our common good in the USA.
So, it is now more important than ever that your TAXES be CORRECT.
We have noticed that a lot of tax preparers encourage families to claim nieces, nephews, family living abroad – even neighbors – as dependents so as to maximize someone’s tax refund.
Also, we often see tax preparers telling spouses to file as “Head of Household,” when in fact, they are married and living with their spouse.
Doing your taxes like this might give you a bigger tax refund this year, but please know that doing this will likely cause problems for immigrants under the new “public charge” rules.
So, if you are an immigrant seeking legal status or residency in the United States, make sure your taxes are done correctly. Use a reputable tax preparer and make sure they are asking you a lot of questions every year.
And please be patient with your immigration attorneys if we tell you to get your taxes re-done! Our job now is to help you demonstrate your work ethic, your personal ambition, your determination to contribute to the USA. And your taxes will be a key component of how we do that.
If you have questions about how the new rules affect you and your case, please call us at (512) 633-1785 or email us at [email protected].
Want to know what’s GOOD about the new public charge rules?
**The new rules look at the IMMIGRANT’s earning potential, not just the U.S. Citizen petitioner’s.**
The new “Affidavit of Self Sufficiency” will examine the applicant’s work history and earning potential and provide applicants with the opportunity to show what they can contribute to our economy. If you are like most of our clients, you are super hard-working and a good earner for your family, so this is a welcome change as far as we’re concerned.
However, if you’re worried about how the new public charge rules will affect your immigration case, here are five steps you could take to make your “Affidavit of Self Sufficiency” stronger. Please note that all of these options are open to you even if you’re undocumented.
1. Get your Diploma or GED. The new rules consider a high school diploma and/or GED as “positive factors” in the public charge analysis. Free classes and programs are available (regardless of your immigration status) at The Literacy Coalition of Central Texas and at the Goodwill Excel Center.
2. Take business classes. The City of Austin Small Business Program provides FREE classes, both online and in person, to help city residents open and launch small businesses. Immigration status is not a barrier to registration. Check out all the classes here: http://www.austintexas.gov/smallbiz. Make sure and keep documentation for all of the classes you take.
3. Start a small business. Dozens of our clients are small business owners and we’ve seen many of them achieve incredible success with restaurants, cleaning businesses, food trailers, retail stores, automotive repairs, and more, in spite of being undocumented. If you have a small business already, make sure it is registered with the Texas Secretary of State and make sure you file and keep your official registration and tax documents.
4. Get a professional certification. Austin Community College offers classes to all Central Texas residents, regardless of immigration status. They offer certifications in dozens of professions where our clients are already working including Culinary, Hospitality, Automotive, Construction, Welding, Heating and AC Services, etc. Check out their academic and career programs at here.
5. Take English classes. English proficiency is considered a “positive factor” under the new rules. Central Texas is home to several FREE programs for individuals who want to improve their English skills. To learn more, go to: https://library.austintexas.gov/nip/english-classes.
As we’ve already stated, all of these resources is available to you regardless of immigration status. And not only does this kind of effort strengthen your “Affidavit of Self-Sufficiency.” It will also fortify your personal, professional, and financial success in the United States.
In the meantime, if you have questions about how the new rules affect you and your case, please call us at (512) 633-1785 or email us at [email protected].