What are Public Benefits?

Public benefits are government programs that provide healthcare, food assistance, cash assistance, disability assistance, housing assistance, and more to low- or no-income individuals and families. In New York City, the Human Resources Administration (HRA) manages all public benefits applications, including Cash Assistance (CA), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid.   AVP can assist lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) survivors of violence connect to these and other benefit resources through our Advocacy Unit. 

How Immigration Status Affects Qualifying for Benefits

Applying for each public benefit depends on immigration status and income. You do not have to be a citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident to be eligible for benefits, and undocumented immigrants can apply for certain benefits and can also apply on behalf of children or family members with immigration status. 

If you have questions about how your immigration status affects your benefits eligibility more information is available here, here, and here. 


New York Public Benefit  Available to Undocumented People  Available if PRUCOL  Available to Humanitarian Entrants or Green Card Holder 
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)*  No  No  Possibly  
New York State Medicaid  No, unless pregnant   Yes  Yes 
SNAP (Food Stamps)  No  No  Yes 
Section 8 Housing  Possibly   Possibly   Yes 
Cash Assistance   No  Possibly   Yes 
Social Security Disability Insurance   No  No  Yes 
Unemployment Insurance   No  Yes  Yes 
Head Start   Yes  Yes  Yes 
Free School Meals  Yes  Yes  Yes 
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)  Yes  Yes  Yes 
Prenatal Care Assistance Program (PCAP)  Yes  Yes  Yes 
Home Energy Assistance Program  No  Yes  Yes 

Learn More About Public Benefits?

Applying for Benefits

Instructions for how to apply for all benefits are available through the HRA website.   

  • For Cash Assistance, SNAP, Medicaid, and transportation benefits: apply through the Access HRA website you can visit a Benefits Access Center.   
  • For Medicaid and Medicare: apply online at NY State of Health: Official Health Plan Marketplace or call the Medicaid Helpline: (800) 541-2831.  
  • For all other programs including Adult Protective Services, Burial Assistance, Career Services, Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Support, HIV/AIDS Services, Homelessness Prevention, or Supportive Housing see HRA website or this document for more information. 

Translation Services

Federal, state and local laws protect your right to get services even if you do not speak English well. Free translation services are available at every HRA office, and all benefits applications are available in six languages (including Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Korean, Haitian-Creole, and Arabic). 

Federal Government & Public Benefits

HRA will not report your personal information to anyone, except if required by law. Your information is protected by the law if you are seeking City services.  HRA will only ask for your immigration status if it is necessary for your public benefits application or if required by law. 

What is the Public Charge rule?

What is “public charge”? 

  • Under federal law, public charge is a test to decide if someone applying for permanent residence (a “green card”) or a visa to enter the United States seems likely to depend on the government as their main source of financial support in the future. If the U.S. government decides that the applicant is likely to become a public charge, the government can deny their green card or visa application. 


Who could be affected by public charge? 

  • If you are or will be applying for a green card or a visa and your status is not listed below, public charge might apply to you. If public charge applies to you, it can be used to deny you a green card or visa. BUT depending on your immigration status, you and your family can still receive most public benefits without harming your green card or visa application.  


Who is not affected by public charge? 

  • Green card holders: if you already have your green card, public charge does not apply when you are renewing your green card or when you apply for U.S. citizenship.   
  • If you plan to leave the country for more than 6 months, public charge could apply when you return to the United States. You should talk with an immigration attorney before you leave.  
  • Humanitarian immigrants and crime victims: if you have a U or T Visa, Asylum or Refugee status, Special Immigrant Juvenile status, or you are a VAWA self-petitioner, public charge does not apply to you.   
  • Public charge is not part of the application process for any of these statuses and public charge cannot be used to deny green cards to anyone with these statuses.  

Need more help?

If you have questions or need more assistance, AVP’s Advocacy Unit is available to provide information and support. Call AVP at 212-714-1141 for more information.