10 May 2012
The officials will participate in a public forum at one of Los Angeles County’s longest operating farmers’ markets to address the issue of “Public Charge,” a term which describes an individual as one who is likely to become dependent on the government for subsistence, either through public cash assistance or long-term care.
“Public Charge” is one of the leading reasons why immigrants who are in need and may be eligible for CalFresh food assistance for themselves or their children are hesitant to apply. The goal of the forum is to reinforce the fact that CalFresh is not a “public cash assistance program,” but rather a supplementary, nutrition-based food assistance program.
Misinformation regarding CalFresh Program eligibility requirements, immigration consequences, and program regulations, are still common in communities throughout L.A. County and the State of California. At the same time, the need for food assistance has never been greater.
According to a USDA report on hunger, the number of U.S. homes lacking adequate food more than tripled in the last four years. In L.A. County (home to 10.4 million residents), it’s estimated that only half of those eligible for food assistance are receiving CalFresh.
The public forum is part of the continued community outreach efforts of “CalFresh Awareness Month,” a comprehensive and coordinated effort during May 2012 by the L.A. County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) and a broad-based community collaborative to reduce hunger in the County.
“The fear of losing immigration status remains a concern in the immigrant community,” said Department of Public Social Services Acting Director Sheryl L. Spiller. “Often, individuals do not apply for benefits due to concerns about being contacted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); or they feel shame associated with receiving public assistance. These fears and concerns are a hindrance to immigrant utilization of CalFresh benefits,” she added.
Officials taking part in the forum will include Spiller; California Department of Social Services CalFresh Branch Chief Linda Patterson; United States Department of Agriculture – Food and Nutrition Service Western Regional Deputy Administrator Jesus Mendoza, Jr.; USCIS (Los Angeles - District 23) Chief of Staff Martha Flores; and CTE-Citizenship & Immigration Center Executive Director and Koreatown Multipurpose Senior Center Board Member, Rev. Peter Park.
The Public Charge forum will take place at the Vermont/Adams Farmers’ Market located on the grounds of the St. Agnes Catholic Church, 1432 W. Adams Street in Los Angeles.
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