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Guidance on Income Eligibility Determinations


Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Action Required

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

Attention: Food Program Director

Number: CACFP-01-2015; SFSP-01-2015

Date: January 2015

Reference: Title 2, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 225 (also referred to as Office of Management and Budget Circular A-87), Appendix B, Item 8.h, Cost Principles for State, Local, and Indian Tribal Governments; U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Instruction 796-4, Revision 4, Section VI C2 and IX B 3c(4), and Section VIII I 23c (2) and (3); Title 2, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 230 (also referred to as Office of Management and Budget Circular A-122), Appendix 8.m; and Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 226.10(d).

Supersedes: Management Bulletins CACFP-11-2014 and SFSP-04-2014

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 discusses the duration of eligibility, change in household income, and the elimination of temporary approval in CACFP and SFSP as well as establishing claiming percentages in the CACFP. This MB also includes answers to frequently asked questions.

This MB supersedes CACFP-11-2014 and SFSP-04-2014: Income Eligibility Determinations and Duration and revises guidance related to the income eligibility effective date.                                                                                                   
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. 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.

Effective Date 

CACFP agencies have flexibility concerning the effective date of certification for CACFP benefits. Nonschool agencies may determine effective date of certification either as the date the parent or guardian signed the income eligibility form or the date that the sponsor or independent center official signed the form to certify eligibility of the participant. However, if the date of parent signature is not within the month of certification or the immediately preceding month, the effective date must be the date of certification. For example, if the agency is using the date the parent or guardian signs the income eligibility form for the effective date of certification, and the parent signs the form on February 1, but the agency does not certify the form until April 1, the effective date will be April 1. Please note that institutions are not required to record the date the parent or guardian submitted the income eligibility form.   

This flexibility applies only to eligibility determinations made based on complete applications containing all required information. Please refer to part 3C of the Eligibility Manual for School Meals, available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) School Meals Income Eligibility Web Page at http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/income-eligibility-guidelines.

These provisions also apply to the determination of eligibility for free meals under the SFSP when sponsors must establish individual children’s eligibility in accordance with 7 CFR 225.15(f).

Schools participating in the CACFP and SFSP can use either the income eligibility form submission date as the effective date of eligibility or the date that the school official signs the form to certify eligibility of the participant. To maintain consistency throughout all child nutrition programs, schools may not use the date of parent or guardian signature as that flexibility is not available to National School Lunch Program (NSLP) operators. For additional guidance, schools and school sponsors should refer to USDA Policy Memo SP 11-2014, CACFP 06-2014, SFSP 11-2014: Effective Date of Free or Reduced Price Meal Eligibility Determinations, which is available on the USDA CACFP Policy Web page at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cacfp/policy.

CACFP agencies and SFSP sponsors must decide which date they will rely on as the effective date and apply this date to all income eligibility forms submitted on behalf of all participants.

Change in Income

The Child Nutrition and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program 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 eligible for benefits through the CalFresh or California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids programs.

Therefore, once a household is approved for free or reduced-price or Tier I benefits, the household remains eligible for those benefits for a period not to exceed 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 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 668490). 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 all approvals are for an entire year; year-long eligibility includes households that report no income on their income eligibility forms.

Establishing Claiming Percentage

In accordance with 7 CFR 226.9(b)(2), state agencies must establish claiming percentages, no less frequently than annually, on the basis of enrolled participants eligible for free or reduced-price meals. 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 one period of time. Including all currently valid income eligibility forms, regardless of when they expire within that month, is consistent with this intent.

Questions and Answers

1. What methods may schools participating in the CACFP and SFSP use to establish the effective date of eligibility?

Schools participating in the CACFP or SFSP may use either the date of submission or the date of certification to establish the effective date of eligibility as described in the previously issued USDA Policy Memo SP 11-2014, CACFP 06-2014, SFSP 11-2014: Effective Date of Free or Reduced Price Meal Eligibility Determinations, which is available on the USDA CACFP Policy Web Page at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cacfp/policy.

Schools may not use the date of parent or guardian signature.

2. What methods may nonschool CACFP agencies and SFSP sponsors use to establish the effective date of eligibility?

Nonschool CACFP agencies and SFSP sponsors may use either the date of parent signature or the date of certification to establish the effective date of eligibility.

3. How should CACFP agencies and SFSP sponsors notify the state agency of which method they will use to establish the effective date of eligibility?

CACFP agencies and SFSP sponsors are encouraged to inform the state agency of this decision. During reviews, state agencies must ensure the same method has been applied to all individual income eligibility determinations. However, if the date of parent signature is not within the month of certification or the immediately preceding month, the effective date must be the date of certification.  

4. For nonschool CACFP agencies and SFSP sponsors, what is the effective date of a form signed and dated by the parent on January 12, 2014?

It is considered valid from January 1, 2014, through January 31, 2015.

5. For nonschool CACFP institutions and SFSP sponsors, if an individual income eligibility form is signed and dated by the parent on February 23, but is not received by the sponsor and certified until March 2, for which month does the income eligibility determination become effective? What if the form is received and certified April 2?

If the CACFP agency or SFSP sponsor is using the date of parent signature to determine eligibility, an individual income eligibility form signed and dated by a parent in February and certified in March would be valid effective February 1.

However, if the form was received and certified in April, meaning there was a delay in either submitting or certifying the form through the entire month of March, the form is valid effective April 1. Because the date of parent signature is not within the month of certification or the immediately preceding month, the effective date must be the date of certification.

6. When using the date of parent signature to establish the effective date of eligibility, what protocol must be taken if an incomplete or unsigned individual income eligibility form is submitted?

An incomplete individual income eligibility form must be returned to the household for completion. If the form is resubmitted without an updated signature and date and, if the date of parent signature is not within the month of certification or the immediately preceding month, the effective date must be the date of certification.  

7. Are centers and providers required to date stamp income eligibility forms when they are submitted by the parent or guardian?

Date stamps upon submission are not required for nonschool CACFP institutions and SFSP sponsors. The effective date of eligibility is either the date of parent or guardian signature or the date of certification. Date of submission is not an optional effective date; therefore, no date stamp indicating date of submission is required.

Questions
CACFP

If you are already participating in the CACFP and have any questions regarding this updated guidance, please contact the CACFP Specialist assigned to your agency. 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.

If you are not participating in the CACFP and have any questions about doing so, please contact Nancy Charpentier, Office Technician, CACFP Unit, by phone at 916-327-2991 or by email at ncharpentier@cde.ca.gov.

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 Team, by phone at 916-324-6153 or by email at SFSP@cde.ca.gov.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Thursday, May 23, 2019
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