Section 850 - Waiver Authority
Q. The expanded waiver authority permits approval of waivers that would reduce benefits by no more than 20 percent for no more than 5 percent of the affected households. How will these parameters be determined and what will be the monitoring obligations?
A. Congress has granted the Secretary the authority to approve projects that would reduce benefits. However, for projects that reduce benefits by more than 20 percent for 5 percent of the affected households, Congress has established limits on both the scope (no more than 15 percent of the State's caseload) and the duration (5 years) of the demonstration. The initial analysis as to the degree that a demonstration project will reduce benefits will be conducted by FNS headquarters. All demonstration projects will continue to be approved at the national office FNS headquarters.
FNS does not anticipate additional State monitoring beyond that normally required under the evaluation and cost-neutrality provisions of the Waiver Terms and Conditions. Also, there is currently no expectation of increasing the role of FNS' Regional Offices in regard to monitoring.
Q. The waiver language speaks to an evaluation requirement. However, many waivers do not really require an evaluation. As waivers become "routine" will evaluation remain a requirement?
A. In general, welfare reform demonstration projects propose hypotheses that can only be substantiated through an evaluation. Additionally, the statute requires the Department to attach an evaluation component to welfare reform demonstration projects.
Q. If a provision of P. L. 104-193 conflicts with a waiver previously granted under a welfare reform demonstration project, is the waiver still valid?
A. The Waiver Terms and Conditions for the welfare reform demonstration projects contain the following statement: "If Federal or State statutes or regulations that would have a major effect on the design and impact of this demonstration are enacted, the Department and the State will reassess the overall demonstration and develop a mutually agreed-upon strategy for dealing with the demonstration in the context of such changes. If such a mutually agreed-upon strategy cannot be developed, the Department reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to withdraw any or all waivers at such time(s) as the department determines."
In the coming months, FNS will assess each welfare reform demonstration project that contains Food Stamp Program waivers and will work with State agencies to develop a strategy that best meets the overall goals and needs of States as they move forward their plans to implement TANF. States are encouraged to contact FNS with specific questions pertaining to their waivers.