Many immigrant families have avoided safety net and pandemic relief programs in recent years over concerns that their participation would have adverse immigration consequences. These chilling effects on program participation occurred in the context of a restrictive immigration policy environment under the Trump administration, including the expansion of the “public charge” rule. Though the Biden administration has reverted to prior guidance on the public charge rule and reversed many other immigration policy changes, chilling effects may continue to deter adults in immigrant families from seeking safety net supports for which they or their children are eligible. This study draws on Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey data collected in December 2020 and interviews conducted with adults in immigrant families with low incomes and people who work at organizations that connect immigrant families to health, nutrition, and other support programs in California. We conducted the interviews between March and May 2021, in the early months of the Biden administration, offering unique insights as policy priorities were shifting. The findings of this study highlight the economic hardships experienced by California immigrant families with low incomes during the pandemic, the lifeline that safety net and community supports can offer, and the barriers such families face to greater access to these programs. It also highlights opportunities for building trust with and expanding access to safety net programs for families who have not received basic supports.
Building Trust and Improving Access to Safety Net Programs in the Pandemic Recovery