How does DTA count the income of an ineligible immigrant?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

Some ineligible immigrants live with other people who are eligible for SNAP, such as an immigrant parent living with U.S. citizen children. There are two different calculations depending on the immigration status:

Calculation for households with legally present, ineligible immigrants

If you are lawfully residing in the U.S. but are ineligible for benefits – or you choose not to be part of the SNAP household – the SNAP benefits for the family members you live with are calculated using a special calculation.  106 C.M.R. § 365.520(B)(2)

The SNAP regulations define a broad group of immigrants who are considered “lawfully residing.” See 106 C.M.R. § 362.240(A). This list includes immigrants with work authorization such as applicants for asylum or with pending VAWA or relative petitions. It also includes LPRs subject to the 5-year bar. 

The SNAP calculation for households with lawfully present immigrants involves three steps:

  1. DTA calculates benefits including the ineligible immigrant member and all of their income,
  2. DTA calculates the SNAP for the household without the immigrant as a household member and without counting his/her income
  3. DTA gives the eligible household the lower amount of the two calculations.   106 C.M.R 364.600(C)

Example: Juana is an applicant for political asylum. Because she was determined to have a bona fide application for asylum, she was granted Employment Authorization.  However, Juana is not eligible for SNAP until she is approved for asylum. Juana has two children who are U.S. citizens. She currently earns $1,250/month gross income and pays $700 rent, plus heat and cooling costs. Her children have no income. Here’s how DTA calculates her benefits:

■    Step 1: DTA calculates the benefit amount the family would receive if the legal immigrant was actually SNAP eligible. 

DTA calculates the benefits for three people, including Juana and her two children. DTA counts all of Juana’s income and allows the income deductions (20% earnings disregard, $160 standard deduction and the shelter deduction max at $535).  Juana has net income of $305 a month. The maximum benefit for a household of three is $504. After subtracting 30% of net income, the SNAP benefit is $412/month.

Countable net income after deductions: $305
Maximum benefits for household of 3 persons: $504
Subtract 30% of $326 (countable net income): -92
Benefit for this HH ($511 less 1/3 net income): $412

In Juana’s case, DTA first calculates the benefits for three persons including Juana and her two children. DTA counts all of Juana’s income and allows all applicable deductions (in her case, the 20% earnings disregard, the $157 standard deduction and a shelter deduction max at $517).  Juana has net income of $326 a month. The maximum benefit for a household of three is $511. After subtracting 30% of net income, her family will receive $413/month.

■    Step 2: DTA calculates SNAP for the eligible household members excluding the ineligible immigrant and his/her income. If the eligible children have countable income (for example, child support), that income is counted to determine the SNAP benefits. 

In Juana’s case, the children have no countable income. The benefit for 2 persons with no countable income is $352 a month. 

■    Step 3: The household is eligible for the SNAP amount that is lower between Step 1 and Step 2. The reason for giving the lower amount is because an immigrant-headed household will get no more SNAP benefits than if all members were U.S. citizens.      

In Juana’s case, the benefit for the children is $352, the amount in Step 2, which is less than the $412 from Step 1. 

Calculation for households with undetermined status members

If you are an undocumented immigrant, the SNAP benefit calculation is harsh. DTA will count all of the ineligible immigrant’s income toward the eligible members without considering the ineligible immigrant’s needs. 106 C.M.R. § 365.520(A). This calculation is identical to the way that income is counted for sanctioned household members (individuals who have committed an Intentional Program Violation). See How does DTA count the income of someone who is not part of my SNAP household?.

DTA does one calculation counting the income of the ineligible individual, but excludes the immigrant as a household member in determining both the household size and the household SNAP amount:

Example: In the case of Juana, above, it turns out she does not have any proof of legal status. Because Juana has “undetermined legal status,” DTA counts all of her income against a SNAP benefit level for the two children only. The children will receive only $261 in SNAP benefits.

Countable net income after deductions: $305
Maximum benefits for household of 2 children: $352
Subtract 30% of (countable net income): -92
Benefit for this HH ($347 less 1/3 net income): $261

 

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