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Guidance on Income Eligibility Determinations


Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

Date: May 2014

Number: CACFP-11-2014 and SFSP-04-2014

To: Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program Sponsors

Attention: Food Program Director

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memoranda CACFP 07-2014 and SFSP 12-2014; and SP 11-2014, CACFP 06-2014, and SFSP 11-2014

Supersedes: U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memorandum CACFP-06-2012 and SFSP-08-2012

Subject: Guidance on Income Eligibility Determinations and Duration


This Management Bulletin (MB) provides guidance and clarification regarding individual income eligibility determinations and durations in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). This MB incorporates the recently clarified flexibility available for establishing the effective date of eligibility for children certified for free or reduced-price meals in the CACFP and SFSP.

Eligibility Duration

In accordance with Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR), Section 226.23(f), CACFP agencies must collect and report free, reduced-price, and paid meal eligibility information to the California Department of Education (CDE). CACFP agencies must update eligibility information annually. Income eligibility forms are valid until the last day of the month in which they were originally dated one year earlier.

Agencies now have flexibility concerning the effective date of certification for program benefits. Agencies may determine the effective date as either the date the parent or guardian signed the income eligibility form or the date on which the agency official signs the form to certify eligibility of the participant. This flexibility applies only to eligibility determinations made through the application process for complete applications that contain all required information at the time of submission.

Agencies must decide which option they will use as the effective date and apply this option to all income eligibility forms submitted on behalf of all participants in all centers and homes.

This eligibility duration determination method applies to day care centers and family day care homes, and should be used to assess the expiration of an income eligibility form in all situations, regardless of the reimbursement calculation method used. These provisions also apply to the determination of eligibility for free meals under the SFSP when individual children’s eligibility must be established in accordance with 7 CFR, Section 225.15(f).

Please note local educational agencies (LEA) have a third option for establishing the effective date of eligibility. If an LEA chooses, they may establish the date the application was submitted as the effective date, rather than the date the parent or guardian signed the application or the date the LEA official signs and approves the application. For more information on this third option for LEAs, please refer to U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memorandum SP 11-2014 on their School Meals Policy Memos Web page at http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/policy/all.

Change in Income

The Child Nutrition and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-265) modified requirements related to reporting changes in income during the period of eligibility covered by the application. Households are not required to report changes in circumstances, such as an increase in income, a decrease in household size, or when the household is no longer certified as eligible for benefits through the CalFresh or California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids programs. Once a household is approved for free, reduced-price, or Tier I benefits, the household remains eligible for those benefits for a period of 12 months, regardless of any change in household income.

Elimination of Temporary Approval

The final rule, “Applying for Free and Reduced-price Meals in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program and for Benefits in the Special Milk Program,” eliminated the practice of temporary approvals for free or reduced-price meal benefits (Federal Register, Volume 76, Number 209 [Friday, October 28, 2011], U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service notice, page 66849). The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 extended the eligibility period in the NSLP to 12 months, eliminating the use of temporary approvals. Because income guidelines for determining eligibility in the CACFP and SFSP must align with those of the NSLP, this provision also applies to the CACFP and SFSP.

Previously, temporary approval was encouraged when the need for assistance seemed short term, such as when a household experienced a temporary reduction in income or when no income was reported. Year-long eligibility did not apply when a household was given temporary approval; at the end of the temporary approval period, determining officials re-evaluated the household’s situation. Now, households that were in temporary approval status on November 28, 2011, or have been temporarily approved since that date, must be approved for an entire year from the original date of the temporary approval. Year-long eligibility includes households that report no income on their income eligibility forms.

Establishing Claiming Percentage

In accordance with 7 CFR, Section 226.9(b)(2), state agencies must establish claiming percentages, no less frequently than annually, on the basis of the number of enrolled participants who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Income eligibility forms are valid until the last day of the month in which they were originally dated one year earlier. During any month in which a claiming percentage is being established, any income eligibility forms expiring that month should be included in determining that claiming percentage. The claiming percentage may then remain valid for up to 12 months. Claiming percentages are intended to capture the number of eligible children at a facility during a specific period of time; including all currently valid income eligibility forms, regardless of when they expire within that month, is consistent with this intent.

Questions

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact your CACFP or SFSP Specialist.

CACFP: A contact list of CACFP Specialists is available in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS), Form ID CACFP 01. You can also contact Nancy Charpentier, CACFP Unit Office Technician, by phone at 916-327-2991 or by e-mail at ncharpentier@cde.ca.gov, to be directed to your CACFP Specialist.

SFSP: A contact list of SFSP Specialists is available in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS, Form ID SFSP 01. You can also contact the SFSP Unit Office Technician, by phone at 916-322-8323 or by e-mail at sfsp@cde.ca.gov, to be directed to your SFSP Specialist.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
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