Federal law restricts noncitizens' access to public benefits, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Further, when noncitizens who legally reside in this country through sponsorship of a family member apply for these benefits, they are subject to sponsor deeming, which requires benefit agencies to combine noncitizens' incomes with those of their sponsors to determine eligibility. Sponsors are also financially liable for benefits paid to the noncitizen, and benefit agencies must seek repayment for these costs. GAO was asked to analyze (1) what is known about the size of the noncitizen population potentially affected by the sponsor deeming requirements for TANF, Medicaid, SNAP, and SSI; (2) to what extent have agencies implemented sponsor deeming; (3) to what extent have agencies implemented sponsor repayment. To address these, GAO analyzed federal data, surveyed states, and interviewed federal, state, and local officials.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Health and Human Services||To help ensure sponsor deeming is implemented for Medicaid, the Administrator of CMS should issue guidance to help administering agencies implement the law in this area.|
|Department of Health and Human Services||To improve consistency of benefit administering agencies' application of the indigence exception to sponsor deeming, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should clarify in the guidance for TANF a suggested process for determining an applicant's eligibility for that exception.|
|Department of Homeland Security||To help benefit administering agencies access information on sponsored noncitizens, the Secretary of Homeland Security should improve information on sponsorship status of noncitizens provided through the automated Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system. For example, a class of admission code list that indicates sponsored noncitizens could be added to the SAVE technical assistance tools or effectively distributed to SAVE users.|
|Department of Homeland Security||To help benefit administering agencies access information on sponsored noncitizens, the Secretary of Homeland Security should provide guidance to SAVE users that improves their understanding of how to request sponsor information through the automated SAVE system rather than through manual submission of paper request forms.|