Federal aid for Ukrainian refugees in the U.S.
On May 21, 2022 President Biden signed the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 (AUSAA), which makes Ukrainians who arrived in the U.S. on humanitarian parole eligible for largely the same mainstream and resettlement federal benefits as refugees.
Who is Eligible for Federal Aid
All Ukrainians and people who resided in Ukraine prior to the war and who were admitted in the U.S. on humanitarian parole between February 24, 2022 and September 30, 2023 are eligible. This includes people who were paroled at the Mexican or Canadian border and people who flew in under the Uniting for Ukraine program.
The aid is generally provided for the term of the humanitarian parole. If a person who was admitted to the U.S. on humanitarian parole applies and receives TPS, this person will not lose their aid because of the change of status and will continue to receive the aid until the end of their parole term.
Ukrainians who are in the U.S. on a visitor visa or changed status from a visitor visa to TPS are not eligible for federal aid.
Some states, for example, California, offer state-funded health insurance and may offer other benefits to people with visitor visas or TPS. Inquire at your state welfare agency.
What Federal Aid is Available to Ukrainians
Ukrainian parolees with no income or low income can receive the following welfare aid:
Medicaid (aka Medi-Cal in California, or Apple Health in Washington)
Medicaid is government-funded health insurance for low-income individuals and families. You are eligible for Medicaid if your family’s income is below a certain threshold (in most states, 138% of the federal poverty level).
Ukrainian parolees receive full Medicaid coverage, including basic dental and vision services. All health services and prescription drugs are covered by Medicaid at no cost to you. However, almost every visit to a specialist or procedure requires a referral and prior approval of the insurance. Unless you have an emergency, you should always go to your assigned primary care physician (PCP) first, and receive a referral for whatever specialist you need to see or procedure you need to have. See more at the Health Insurance page.
SNAP (aka CalFresh in California)
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, is financial aid to buy food. You will receive a debit card to which the government will make monthly contributions, and you will be able to use this card to buy food items at grocery stores.
You can receive a maximum of $250 for a single person, $459 for a family of two and $658 for a family of three. See chart for other family sizes. If you have some income or assets, the amounts may be lower.
TANF (aka CalWORKs in California)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is cash aid to families with minor children. The amount of cash you can receive under TANF varies state by state and depends on your family size.
Some states also run other assistance programs as part of TANF, including homelessness prevention programs, child care assistance programs and employment assistance programs. Inquire at your welfare agency about available services.
Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) is cash aid program for single people and couples without minor children, who do not qualify for TANF. RCA is given for 12 months, with maximum monthly payments of $537 per single person or $726 per couple.
WIC (short for Women, Infants and Children) program provides supplemental healthy foods and health screenings for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age 5. Unlike the above-mentioned programs for which you can apply though your county welfare agency, you should apply for WIC via your state’s WIC website or by calling a toll-free number.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is financial aid for people aged 65 or older, blind or disabled. The maximum monthly amount of SSI is $841 per person, or $1,261 per couple where both spouses are eligible. Apply for SSI at the Social Security Administration office.
Aside from the above-mentioned mainstream benefits, Ukrainians may qualify for refugee resettlement assistance, such as, for example, Matching Grant program, which includes assistance with housing, cash, immigration forms and employment. Inquire about these additional services at your closest resettlement agency.
How to Apply
You can apply for mainstream benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP, TANF and RCA at your county welfare agency. They are named differently in different cities and states, for example:
State of California: Department of Health and Human Services (CalHSS)
State of Washington: Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
Google “department of human assistance” and the name of your county to locate the agency in your county.
Bring with you your passport, form I-94 (if you did not receive I-94 at the border, you can print it online) and a proof of residence in your county (any official letter showing your name and address, a utility bill in your name, a rental agreement, or a letter from the owner of the house saying that you live there).
Oftentimes, you can apply for welfare benefits online. However, it is better to find the closest office and come in person – that way you can get help in filling out the forms and ask your questions. You can also be interviewed and receive approval right away instead of having to wait for a telephone interview after submitting an online application.
👆 All welfare agencies provide interpreters. Request an interpreter in the office or at the beginning of the telephone interview if you don’t speak English.
If You are Asked to Provide a Social Security Number
Most mainstream welfare benefits require you to provide a Social Security Number (SSN). However, it is the welfare agency’s duty to help you obtain an SSN if you don’t have one. If the social worker asks you to provide an SSN, explain that you don’t yet have one and request a referral letter to the Social Security Administration which states that the welfare agency needs your SSN to process your request for aid.
Attach this letter to your application for a Social Security Card. Once you obtain a receipt confirming submission of your Social Security Card application, take that receipt back to the welfare agency as a proof that you’ve applied for an SSN. The welfare agency will then process your application for benefits.
If You Have a Supporter under Uniting for Ukraine
Neither the income of your supporter, nor the help your supporter provides to you matter for purposes of your eligibility for welfare aid. (The only exception is the SNAP program – you will not be eligible for food stamps if you live and share food with your supporter.)
If the social worker asks you about the income of your “sponsor,” explain that you do not have a sponsor who signed form 864 (a stricter form for family immigration cases where the sponsor takes full financial responsibility for their relative). Rather, your supporter signed form I-134, which is not binding on your supporter, and under AUSAA, your supporter’s income does not matter for your eligibility for welfare aid.
If You Received a Denial
If you applied for aid before the enactment of AUSAA and received a denial or lesser aid than you are now entitled to (for example, you received only emergency Medicaid instead of full Medicaid), you can simply apply again.
If you just received a denial, don’t give up. Social workers are humans and often make mistakes, especially when dealing with new laws. You can:
Ask to appeal the denial. Appeals are handled by more knowledgeable employees, and they will likely be able to spot and reverse the mistake.
Wait a few weeks and apply again.
Apply at a different office if there are several offices in your county. You may encounter a more knowledgeable worker elsewhere.
Print the following documents and show them to the social worker:
Ukrainian Humanitarian Parolees Eligible for ORR Benefits and Services (letter stating Ukrainian parolees’ eligibility for Medicaid, SNAP, TANF and SSI)
Eligibility of Ukrainian Humanitarian Parolees for TANF (guidance explaining that Ukrainian parolee families are eligible for TANF and the supporter’s income doesn’t count)
Clarification Related to Ukrainian Humanitarian Parolees’ Eligibility for RCA and RMA (letter explaining that Ukrainian parolees ineligible for TANF can receive RCA)
Social worker explains what Ukrainians are eligible for and what to do if you are asked about your sponsor