As migrants arrive in the Chicagoland area from the southern border, several questions have arisen regarding the
legal authority for townships to provide financial aid through general
assistance funds. While townships have the authority to provide
financial assistance to migrants under the Public Aid Code, 305 ILCS
5/1-1 et seq., (Code), whether migrants are eligible for general
assistance funds is a bit more complicated .

First, to receive general assistance under the Code, recipients
must either be United States citizens or in a category of eligible
non-citizens. The Code provides definitions of those categories, but a township may need to consult with an immigration attorney or legal non-profit for guidance on application of this provision of the Code to the migrants within their jurisdiction.

Second, for
migrants to receive general assistance, they must not be eligible under any other
section of the Code. The Code allows the administration of funds for several
programs that migrants may be eligible for depending on certain immigration
classifications. Townships may need to seek expert guidance on the classification question as well.

Third, assuming
those preliminary hurdles are cleared, townships have legal authority to
administer general assistance to migrants. While general assistance is usually
limited to residents of Illinois, an exception exists to provide non-state residents
with general assistance for a temporary period when they will suffer “great
hardship.” Migrants arriving in the Chicagoland area typically have no money,
food, or shelter which would likely qualify as a great hardship under the Code.

General assistance is split into two categories: 1) transitional
assistance; and 2) family and children assistance. The first category, transitional assistance, is
for individuals 18 years or older who are “chronically needy” and townships have
the power to expand categories of “chronically needy.” If a township wants to provide aid to migrants through transitional assistance, they have the power
to do so. The second category, family and children assistance, is for families with children under 18
or pregnant women. There may also be other aid programs for needy families that
migrants may be eligible for depending on immigration status.

Finally, nothing in the Code should be construed to mean that
townships are required to provide general assistance to migrants in their
communities, but only that they appear to have the authority to do so, subject to certain status or classification issues.

Post Authored by Daniel Lev, Ancel Glink