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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Whether Fee-Based Programs and Services Constitute “State and Local Public Benefits” under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act

Congressional Research Service

To: The Honorable Jared Polis 

Prepared at your request, this memorandum addresses whether programs and services that state or local governments provide for a fee could be found to constitute “state and local public benefits” for purposes of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996.
Based on the judicial opinions published to date, it would appear that such services are unlikely to be viewed as state and local public benefits because they do not “assist people with economic hardship” and “create little or no incentive for illegal immigration.” In fact, courts have traditionally viewed certain services provided for a fee (i.e., education at state-sponsored institutions of higher education) as not constituting state public benefits under PRWORA. However, it should be noted that there are relatively few published decisions addressing this question, and that many of the extant decisions have been issued by state courts and might not be viewed as precedential—or even persuasive—authority in all jurisdictions. In addition, some states and localities may have enacted their own statutory definitions of “public benefit.” Not all such state or local definitions may be permissible under federal law, but where permissible, they could help to determine whether fee-based services may be provided to certain aliens. These state or local definitions are outside the scope of this memorandum, as is the legislative history of PRWORA, information about which has already been provided to you by other CRS analysts. Information in the memorandum is drawn from publicly available sources and is of general interest to the Congress. As such, all or part of this information may be provided in memoranda or reports for general distribution to the Congress. Your confidentiality as a requester will be preserved in any case.

Date of Report: July 10, 2012
Number of Pages: 5
Order Number: M-071012
Price: $19.95

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