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Alternative Income Forms

Alternative Income Forms for collecting household income information to identify students meeting the criteria for free and reduced-price meal (FRPM) eligibility for Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) purposes.

Purpose | Templates | Key Dates | Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) | Resources


To determine the Unduplicated Pupil Count (UPC), which is used to calculate Supplemental and Concentration Grant funding for LCFF and eligibility for other state funding programs, local educational agencies (LEAs) must identify students whose household income falls below federal poverty levels. Alternative income forms can be used in place of, or in conjunction with, federal meal applications to determine student eligibility.

Alternative Income Form Benefits to LEAs:
  • Identify students whose household income meets FRPM eligibility levels
  • Maximize the UPC used to calculate the Supplemental and Concentration Grant funding and eligibility for other state funding programs
Alternative Income Form Benefits to Households:
  • College application fee waivers
  • Testing fee waivers
  • Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or similar, benefits
Under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP):

Schools may or may not collect meal applications depending on the type of federal meal program they are participating in. Those that do not collect meal applications on an annual basis may want to collect alternative income forms during years in which federal meal applications are not collected. Collecting alternative income forms may allow LEAs to maximize the state funding they receive. Alternative income forms may be collected as outlined below:

  • Schools operating a traditional meal program collect meal applications on an annual basis, therefore, collection of alternative income forms would be optional.
  • Schools with Provision 2 and 3 status collect NSLP eligibility applications in the base year, but do not collect eligibility applications in the subsequent years the school is on Provision 2 and 3 status, except to reestablish a base year.  Schools participating in Provision 2 or 3 may want to collect alternative income forms from students transferring into the school during the years in which meal forms are not collected, or collect alternative income forms annually.
  • Schools participating under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) never collect NSLP eligibility applications. Therefore, in order to identify students who are FRPM-eligible for purposes of the UPC, schools must collect alternative income forms. These forms can be collected to establish a base year, then collected in intervening years from students transferring into the school, until the base year is re-established, or forms can be collected annually from all students Schools participating in CEP should collect alternative forms to ensure they receive the maximum amount of state funding they are entitled to.
  • Schools participating in Provision 2, 3, or CEP have the option to establish a base year for LCFF purposes. For more information regarding the LCFF base year please see the LCFF FAQs.
  • Schools that do not participate in a federal meal program should collect alternative income forms on an annual basis.

To be counted as eligible for FRPM for purposes of the LCFF, pupils must meet income eligibility criteria for the NSLP through an approved NSLP application or alternative income form, be directly certified to receive free meals, or be categorically eligible (i.e. qualify for FRPM based on foster, migrant, or homeless status).

This means that in Provision 2/3 and CEP schools, for students who are not directly certified or categorically eligible, or those schools not participating in a federal meal program, LEAs must determine income eligibility through an alternative income form and submit a corresponding program record in California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) in order for those students to be included in the UPC. Identifying a pupil as income-eligible or not income-eligible in CALPADS does not affect the pupil’s ability to receive a free meal in a Provision 2/3 or CEP school.


The California Department of Education (CDE) has developed several sample forms to collect income eligibility information. LEAs may choose to use one of the CDE sample forms to collect information from students or develop a different data collection mechanism. See FAQ #2 below for the necessary data elements. Alternative income forms are designed to collect household income information to allow LEAs to identify students that would have been FRPM eligible based on income eligibility levels for the NSLP. These forms are not designed for and should not be used to determine eligibility for free or reduced-price meals under a federal meal program. The ranges used to determine income eligibility are updated annually by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA’s FRPM Income Eligibility Guidelines are available on the CDE website. Category 1 is the range for free meals and category 2 is the range for reduced-price meals.

Form Name and Link Information Does This Form Require Annual Updates? Available Translations
Alternative Income Form 1 (DOC)
  • Collects the minimum information required for multiple children.
  • Parents/guardians calculate their annual income and select among income ranges.
Yes Translations to Form 1
Alternative Income Form 2 (DOC)
  • Collects information for multiple children.
  • Parents/guardians list their income sources and amounts.
  • LEA determines whether the income falls within specified ranges.
No Translations to Form 2
Alternative Income Form 3 (DOC)
  • Collects information for multiple children.
  • Parents/guardians select among income ranges.
  • Income ranges presented for various frequencies of payment (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.).
Yes Translations to Form 3
Alternative Income Form 4 (DOC)
  • Collects the minimum information required for one child.
  • Parents/guardians provide total income and household size.
  • LEA determines whether the income falls within specified ranges.
No Translations to Form 4
Alternative Income Form 5 (XLS)
  • Collects information for multiple children.
  • Parents/guardians list income sources and amounts.
  • LEA determines whether the income falls within specified ranges.
  • Form includes other information that the school may wish to collect, such as eligibility for benefits under various federal programs.
No Translations to Form 5

Key Dates

Date Activity
Prior-year Spring Begin collecting alternative income forms once the USDA income eligibility guidelines for the upcoming school year are available. USDA generally publishes the annual guidelines in during spring of the preceding school year.
July 1st Begin entering current year student FRPM eligibility records in CALPADS with a start date of July 1 or after.

Census Day
(1st Wednesday in October)

UPC is based on students enrolled in a school on Census Day. Students enrolled on Census Day, who meet income eligibility levels, are included in the UPC if they have an FRPM program record with a start date on or before October 31.
October 31st LEAs must receive alternative income forms from families by October 31st in order to be included in the UPC.

Fall 1 Certification Deadline
(generally mid-December)

Certify Fall 1 Submission which include Census Day enrollment and FRPM eligibility in CALPADS.
Fall 1 Amendment Window Submit additional FRPM eligibility records, or make changes to FRPM eligibility, in CALPADS.
Close of Amendment Window Certify Fall 1 submission. No further updates to CALPADS are allowed after the close of the Amendment Window; any changes to UPC data must be made through the LEA’s annual audit process.

Alternative Income Form FAQs

  1. Are LEAs required to use the alternative income form templates provided by CDE?
    No, LEAs can develop their own alternative income forms as long as all required information is included (See FAQ #2 for minimum information requirements).

  2. What information must be collected on the alternative income forms for Provision 2 and 3 schools, schools participating under the CEP, or schools that do not participate in the NSLP?
    Not all information collected on the NSLP eligibility application forms is required to be collected on alternative income forms for LCFF and accountability purposes. Forms that contain the following minimum information would be considered valid documentation of FRPM eligibility pursuant to EC Section 42238.01(a)(5):
  • Information sufficient to identify the pupil(s)
  • Information sufficient to determine that the pupil or household meets federal income eligibility criteria sufficient to qualify for either a free or reduced-priced meal under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (Public Law 113-79)
  • Certification that information is true and correct by the pupil’s adult household member
  1. What is the timeline for collecting and processing alternative income forms for LCFF?
    To be included in the LCFF UPC, an alternative income form must be submitted by students to their schools by October 31 of the school year. For example, a student who submits an alternative form on October 31, 2022 may be included in the 2022–23 LCFF UPC, if found to be eligible for FRPM. Alternative income forms submitted by October 31 may be processed by the LEA after October 31 and students found to meet the income eligibility requirements may be included in the UPC in that year.

    LEAs can begin to collect alternative income forms for the next school year during the preceding spring, to allow LEAs to incorporate the submission into the registration process, provided the USDA income eligibility guidelines are available. Since the forms reflect students’ income status for the next school year, and since CALPADS automatically closes all FRPM program records (181, 182) at the end of the school year, FRPM records must be submitted to CALPADS with a start date of July 1 or after.

  2. Can alternative income forms be collected from continuing students during the LCFF non-base years?
    No. If a Provision 2/3 or CEP school has established an LCFF base year, the school cannot collect alternative income data forms from continuing pupils during non-base years. This is true even for students that did not submit a alternative income form during the LCFF base year, or for those that did not meet free or reduced-price income eligibility during the base year.

  3. Can an LEA share Alternative Income Form data with another LEA for LCFF purposes?
    Alternative income data, pupils’ eligibility status, and the forms themselves, can be shared with other LEAs as necessary for LCFF calculations.

  4. If an LEA does not have a good return of forms during the LCFF base year, are they required to wait until after the end of the cycle before establishing a new LCFF base year?
    No, LEAs can choose to establish a new LCFF base year during any school year.

  5. Can eligibility from alternative forms be extended to other students in the household?
    Yes, eligibility can extend to other students in the household that are currently enrolled.

  6. Can base year eligibility from one continuing student be extended to a newly enrolled student from the same household?
    No, eligibility determined in a prior year cannot extend to a newly enrolled student from the same household.

  7. Can alternative forms be collected online?
    Yes, as long as the online collection meets the requirements for the alternative forms (See FAQ #2 for minimum information requirements).

  8. Can LEAs complete an alternative income form on behalf of a student’s household?
    Yes, LEAs may complete an Alternative Income form on behalf of a student’s household by collecting the required information over the telephone provided the LEA documents: 1) the date, time, and name of the student’s adult household member spoken to, and 2) the date, time, name, and signature of the LEA staff member collecting the information.

  9. Can we use our meal collection POS system to process information collected on alternate income forms?
    Yes, meal collection POS systems can be used to process alternative income forms. However, any fees related to processing the alternative income forms cannot be paid for by the cafeteria fund.

  10. Does CDE have a sample eligibility letter LEAs can send to households that submit alternative income forms?
    No, CDE does not have a sample eligibility letter that can be issued to households, however, LEAs can develop an eligibility letter if they choose to do so.

  11. Can the cafeteria fund be used to support administrative functions related to the alternative household income data collection process?
    No. Federal and California State laws prohibit the school cafeteria fund from paying for functions that are not related to the NSLP. The development, distribution, receipt, review, and approval of an alternative income form, are not functions related to the NSLP; therefore, cafeteria funds cannot be used for activities related to the alternative income data collection process.



Income Eligibility Guidelines

CALPADS Flash #220

California School Information Services (CSIS) – Alternative Income Form Collection Best Practices (Coming Soon)

Questions:   Principal Apportionment Section |
Last Reviewed: Friday, July 5, 2024
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