Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at The American Prospect. Her email is kthomhave@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

Trump Two-fer: One New Policy Will Attack Both Immigrants and the Safety Net

The new “public charge” rule could affect more than 20 million immigrants.

President Trump’s attacks on the safety net continue, and all the better for him if he can disenfranchise multiple marginalized populations in one fell swoop. Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized its “public charge” rule, which targets both welfare recipients and immigrants. The rule will both limit immigration and discourage current immigrants—even those who shouldn’t have anything to fear from the rule—from using public-assistance programs. Current policy allows the government to consider whether an immigrant is at risk of being “dependent” on the government when determining their eligibility for a visa or green card. Under the current “public charge” test, officials may consider the use of cash assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (which very few families use) or the use of long-term institutional care, when weighing an immigrant’s eligibility for legal status. The Trump...

How California Left Undocumented Immigrants Out of Its EITC Expansion

America’s mega-state had the chance to mitigate the poverty of undocumented immigrants. It chose not to.

It costs a lot to be poor: There’s the cost of transportation to get to a low-paying job, for instance, or the cost of health care when that low-paying job doesn’t provide benefits. The assistance from the social safety net might help a little, but for the most part those programs don’t meet the need. Yet it is even more exorbitant to be poor and undocumented. Undocumented immigrants typically work in unstable, low-wage employment, where they face greater threats of wage theft and exploitation—and don’t receive help from the safety net at all. Many, however, are paying taxes that help fund those programs, as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out on Tuesday, tweeting : “[F]or the last time: people who are undocumented pay taxes! Public goods aren’t ‘gifts’ to immigrants—they pay for your kids’ schooling too.” Rosalba, who immigrated to San Diego nearly 17 years ago from Mexico, is undocumented and...

The Trump Administration Plans to Kick Three Million Off Food Stamps

Once more bypassing Congress to stick it to the safety net, and lying about its intentions to boot

The Trump administration has shown that when it fails to pass priority agenda items legislatively, it will push forward through other means, while ignoring Congress. The regulatory process has already been used to introduce restrictions to the nation’s largest nutrition program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps. In December, the administration signaled that it would push unemployed and underemployed people from high-unemployment areas off of the program, a policy rejected in last year’s farm bill. In May, it published a notice that it would alter how the poverty line is adjusted for inflation—making SNAP benefits smaller. This week, the administration is attempting another regulatory change—a policy that also failed to pass in the 2018 farm bill—that would have the effect of kicking 3.1 million people off of the program, by restricting state flexibilities meant to ease the SNAP application process and...

The Country’s First Child Allowance (Almost)

California has enacted a groundbreaking budget that makes nearly all low-income families eligible for a child tax credit.

Last week, the California legislature passed a budget that spends billions of dollars to attack poverty in the state. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed it into law, in so doing increasing funding for cash welfare, providing $1.5 billion for affordable housing, and also providing more resources for eviction defense, the state’s Medicaid program, homelessness aid, and myriad other anti-poverty programs. In what Newsom termed “perhaps the most significant anti-poverty initiatives that we’ll be passing this year,” the new budget also more than doubles the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and creates what might be the country’s first child allowance—or at least, the closest thing yet to one. Under the state’s new child tax credit, all families in poverty will receive a $1,000 refundable tax credit for each child under the age of six. The only catch is that families must have at least $1 in earnings to be eligible. “We could...

Live Free or Die—Literally

New Hampshire delayed its Medicaid work requirement deadline, as it seemed that more than two-thirds of recipients’ health coverage would be jeopardized.

Charles Krupa/AP Photo
Republicans in New Hampshire want to implement Medicaid work requirements—but like similar initiatives in a handful of other states, their plan is facing some serious roadblocks. New Hampshire’s program began June 1, but as of yet, only 8,021 of approximately 25,000 Medicaid recipients who would be subject to the requirement—the Medicaid expansion population—have either reported work hours or logged a health or other exemption. As those June numbers were finalized Monday, Republican Governor Chris Sununu quickly reversed positions, signing a Democrat-sponsored bill to delay implementation of the work requirement until the end of September, as it seemed inevitable that a majority of those subject to the work requirement would be in danger of losing their health coverage entirely. The bill will also expand exemptions to those experiencing homelessness and full-time students, reduce the monthly work hours requirement from 100 to 80, and end the program if more...