Washington State

House of Representatives

Office of Program Research



Human Services & Early Learning Committee

3SSB 5164

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

Brief Description: Providing public assistance to victims of certain crimes including human trafficking.

Sponsors: Senate Committee on Ways & Means (originally sponsored by Senators Saldaña, Hasegawa, Frockt, Palumbo, Keiser, Nguyen, Wilson, C. and Darneille).

Brief Summary of Third Substitute Bill

  • Expands eligibility for the state Food Assistance Program, the State Family Assistance Program, and the Medical Care Services Program to certain victims of human trafficking and other crimes.

  • Defines a "victim of human trafficking" to include noncitizens and qualifying family members for purposes of certain public assistance programs.

Hearing Date: 2/21/20

Staff: Dawn Eychaner (786-7135).


Depending on their immigration status, noncitizens may be eligible for major federal means-tested benefits programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid. Unauthorized aliens are ineligible for most federal benefits.

T and U Nonimmigrant Status.

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) created the T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa) and the U Nonimmigrant Status (U visa) for victims of human trafficking and other crimes.

The T visa is available to victims of severe forms of human trafficking in order to allow victims to remain in the United States (U.S.) for up to four years if they have assisted law enforcement in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking. Under federal law, a severe form of trafficking is defined as sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Qualifying immediate family members may also receive T visas. A T nonimmigrant may be eligible for certain federal benefits, including Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), the SNAP, and other programs.

The U visa is available to victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. Qualifying criminal activities for purposes of a U visa include abduction, false imprisonment, extortion, involuntary servitude, sexual assault, torture, trafficking, and other crimes. A U visa is valid for four years. Qualifying immediate family members may receive a derivative U visa based on their relationship to the victim.

Refugees and Asylees.

A person may be granted legal status in the U.S. due to persecution or a fear of persecution in his or her home country. Refugee status is granted prior to entry into the U.S. Asylees generally arrive in the U.S. without authorization or overstay a valid visa, claim asylum, and may be granted asylum if their application is approved. Refugees and asylees are eligible to apply for permanent residency after one year.

Refugee Cash and Medical Assistance.

The RCA is federally funded cash support for adults without children who are refugees or eligible immigrants. Refugee medical assistance (RMA) is federally funded medical assistance available for eligible individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid. Immigration statuses eligible for RCA and RMA include refugees, asylees, and certified victims of human trafficking, among others. Individuals eligible for RCA and RMA may receive up to eight months of assistance.

Food Assistance Program for Legal Immigrants.

The Food Assistance Program (FAP) is a state-funded program that provides food assistance to legal immigrants who are ineligible for federal SNAP benefits solely because of their alien status. Applicants must otherwise meet the eligibility requirements of the SNAP, including income and asset limits.

State Family Assistance Program.

The State Family Assistance (SFA) program provides state-funded cash assistance for legal immigrant families, dependent students ages 19 to 20, and pregnant woman in need who are ineligible to receive TANF benefits. The family unit must include a child, or a pregnant woman with no other children. Applicants must otherwise meet the eligibility requirements of the TANF program, including income and asset limits.

Medical Care Services.

To the extent that funds are available, Medical Care Services (MCS) may be provided to persons who are not eligible for Medicaid and are eligible for the state Aged, Blind, or Disabled program or the Housing and Essential Needs program. Enrollment in MCS may not result in expenditures that exceed the amount that has been appropriated. The Health Care Authority (HCA) establishes the standard of assistance and income exemptions.

Summary of Bill:

For the purposes of public assistance eligibility, a victim of human trafficking is defined as a noncitizen who has:

The definition of "victim of human trafficking" includes a victim's qualifying family members. When the victim is under age 21, a qualifying family member includes a victim's spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under age 18. When the victim is age 21 or older, qualifying family members include a victim's spouse and children.

Victims of human trafficking and their qualifying family members are eligible for:

The HCA must, to the extent possible, coordinate with the Department of Social and Health Services, the FAP for legal immigrants, the SFA program, and the RCA program.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Requested on February 17, 2020.

Effective Date: The bill takes effect on February 1, 2022.