FAQ: Eligibility for Assistance Based on Immigration Status

Eligibility for Assistance Based on Immigration Status

Last updated APRIL 2021

National Immigration Law Center | National Housing Law Project | National Low Income Housing Coalition

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has passed several emergency measures that provide assistance to struggling individuals and families. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included funding for several housing programs as well as other financial assistance. Congress enacted COVID-19 relief legislation in December 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2021. Together, these two laws provide $46 billion for emergency rental and utility assistance, $5 billion to assist people who are homeless with immediate and longer-term needs, and $350 billion to help state and local governments respond to COVID-19 and its economic effects, including through aid to households, among other vital provisions.

However, some programs included in the COVID relief laws restrict eligibility based on immigration status. Immigrant families also may have questions about the implications of using these programs, under the Department of Homeland Security’s or Department of State’s public charge policies, which can affect some noncitizens seeking admission to the U.S. or applying for lawful permanent resident status (green card). The only benefits considered in the current public charge test are monthly cash assistance programs, like SSI, TANF or General Assistance and government funded long-term care.

The table in the PDF provides information about immigrants’ eligibility for these programs in addition to potential implications for public charge determinations.


  • Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
  • Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF)
  • U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program
  • Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG)
  • Other HUD Programs
  • Unemployment Insurance (UI)
  • Economic Impact Payments (EIPs)
  • FEMA Assistance
  • Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds

To download the FAQ table, click on the PDF icon, above.