Questions & Answers on the Final Rule on Noncitizen, Eligibility
and Certification Provisions of PRWORA - Second Section
This section of Qs&As covers the Application form, Filing
the Application Form, Interviews, Verification, Request For Contact and
Shortening Certification Periods, Drug/Alcohol Treatment Programs, Transitional
Benefits, Recertification, Aliens, Self-Employment, Shelter Expenses,
and Extending Certification Periods.
Section G The Application Form
Suppose a state agency uses a multi-program application form and a household
only wants to apply for food stamps. How would a household know which
questions to answer?
It is up to the state agency to indicate clearly which questions are
necessary for the Food Stamp Program.
Section H Filing the Application Form
7 CFR 273.2(c)(2)(i) requires the state agency to tell an applicant that
receiving food stamps has no bearing on another program’s time limits.
Is there a particular way that the state agency must inform the household?
It is up to the state agency to decide.
Must a state print out the entire computerized application for applicants
to review prior to their signing the form? Or can a state produce a shorter
version for the applicant, containing only certain information and a space
for the signature?
It is up to the state agency to decide. However, the regulations (please
see 7 CFR 273.2(c)(1)) require the state agency to give the household:
The "opportunity to review the information that has been recorded
A "copy of that information for their records".
Section I - Interviews
For guidance about interviews as part of recertification, please also
see the questions in section N.
Can the state agency combine the notice of missed interview (NOMI) with
a notice of denial?
Only at recertification.
Can the local office say that a client’s house is not an acceptable place
for the interview?
What happens if the local office and the household cannot agree on a
place for the interview?
Then the interview must take place at the food stamp office (please see
7 CFR 273.2(e)(1)).
Suppose a face-to-face interview is required.
What if the local office says we will only have meetings in this one
place and the household refuses, then what do we do if a location outside
the office can’t be found that is acceptable to both?
The household must attend the interview in the local office.
What constitutes a mass call-in (7 CFR 273.2(e)(1))?
A mass call-in is a demand that households attend interviews because
the households share particular demographic or group characteristics.
Please note that the phrase report en masse appears in an
example of a prohibited activity in the preamble on page 70151, in the
What does that mean for Project Recall?
Project Recall cannot require in-office interviews. The state
agency may ask the clients to attend interviews in food
stamp offices. The state agency may call clients on the telephone.
Is a household still allowed to call in any changes that have occurred?
Some local offices schedule two interviews in advance. If a household
misses its first interview, must the state agency send a notice of missed
Yes, once the requirement to send this notice goes into effect. The basic
purpose of the notice is to remind the household of its responsibilities.
Such a reminder is appropriate whether a second interview has already
been scheduled or not. However, 7 CFR 273.2(e)(3) says that the reminder
notice must state "that the household is responsible for rescheduling
a missed interview". For such a local office, a waiver of this provision
may be advisable, since the rescheduling has already taken place.
273.2(e)(2) states, in part: "The State agency must notify the applicant
that it will waive the face-to-face interview required in paragraph (e)(1)
of this section in favor of a telephone interview on a case-by-case basis
because of household hardship situations as determined by the State agency."
Does this notice have to be on the application? Could the state agency
just tell the household, explain it through an informational video, put
it on a poster, or publish it in a brochure?
It is up to the state agency to decide. However, the applicant must be
informed, so a message that is only on a poster may not inform all applicants.
Until this final rule, a state agency was required to schedule a second
interview when the household failed to attend its first scheduled interview.
Some state agencies had waivers that allowed them to deny an application
immediately when a household missed its second appointment.
Now that the second appointment is not mandatory, would FNS approve a
waiver letting a state agency deny an application immediately when a household
misses its first appointment for an interview?
Until 7 CFR 273.2(e)(3), the notice of missed interview, goes into effect,
a state agency is still required to schedule a second interview. FNS is
extending waivers that allow an immediate denial after the second
When the requirement for a notice of missed interview becomes effective,
we shall not approve a waiver that allows a state agency to deny an application
immediately after the household misses its first interview.
May a local office arrange for interviews on a first come, first served
No, once 7 CFR 273.2(e) goes into effect. In the meantime, FNS strongly
discourages state agencies from engaging in this practice. There is a
discussion of this issue in the preamble on page 70152, in the left-hand
May a local office give a household the option of having a scheduled
interview or a first comefirst served interview?
Yes, as long as the household can be certain of having an interview on
a particular day.
May the State agency schedule an interview for a specific day, but not
for a specific time of the day?
A state agency should use normal business practices that provide a basic
level of customer service. As the preamble states, FNS’s intent in writing
this regulation was to ensure that "the State agency schedule a specific
date and time for an interview for every applicant household" (please
see page 70152, the left-hand column).
A local office may want to set a limit on the number of people who will
be seen in the office per day. May a local office use such quotas each
The state agency may only be able to interview a limited number of people
on each day, but it must schedule an interview on another day for people
who have not been interviewed that day.
A state agency has a waiver not to schedule a second interview. Instead,
the scheduling notice, the Notice of Expiration, and the application form
all tell the household that it is the household’s responsibility to reschedule
a missed interview.
Once the regulation about the Notice of Missed Interview (NOMI) goes
into effect, will the state agency have to send a NOMI even though they
provide participants with written notification before the first interview?
Yes. One of the NOMI’s functions is to tell the household that they have,
in fact, missed a required interview.
For the state that is described in Question I-16, once the regulation
about the NOMI goes into effect, will the waiver become obsolete?
The waiver not to schedule a second interview will become obsolete.
Section J Verification
If a household has signed a release of information, why can’t it be disclosed
that the individual is applying for or receiving food stamps?
The regulations say that the state agency should not disclose
this information. It may disclose information when it is necessary to
do so. The intent is to minimize the disclosure of information.
Section K Request For Contact and Shortening Certification
Please note that at this time, the requirement to send a Request for
Contact (RFC) is not yet effective. However, the prohibition against using
a Notice of Expiration (NOE) to shorten a certification period is in effect
and must be implemented by June 1, 2001.
If an RFC was provided, and the household did not respond, can the benefits
be suspended for the following month (following 10-day adverse action
time frame) if the current month was already suspended? 273.12(c)(2)(ii)
allows a case to be suspended for one month only how does this rule
Yes, the state agency may suspend the household’s participation. 273.12(c)(2)(ii)
limits suspension to one month for a particular reason temporary ineligibility.
Suspending a household after sending a Request for Contact would be a
suspension for a different reason, and is therefore permissible.
Why can’t the 10-day adverse action time frame be given with the RFC
notice so that two separate notices do not have to be sent? Example: A
request for contact could be sent 02-10 asking for information about a
new household member and state in the notice that if the information is
not provided within 10 days, the March 01 benefits will be terminated
or suspended. In this instance, the household would have their 10 days
to submit and a 10-day adverse action time frame.
It is in the state agency’s and household’s interest to avoid an unnecessary
termination. The RFC allows the state agency to approach the household
for necessary information without sending a formal adverse notice (please
see the preamble on page 70158, in the right-hand column).
On the other hand, a state agency sends a notice of adverse action for
cause. That is, the state agency knows that the household is entitled
to lower benefits or that the household has refused or failed to cooperate.
If the state agency follows 273.12(c)(3)(ii) and terminates the case,
only reapplication will result in benefits being granted, correct? In
other words, the state is not required to reinstate benefits after termination
if the household complies with the request. Example: RFC sent 01-05 asking
for wage information; it is not received by 01-20 so the February benefits
are terminated. If the wage information is received 01-30, termination
continues unless the household makes reapplication, correct?
Not necessarily. There are at least two circumstances when benefits would
The state agency may also follow the procedure in 273.12(c)(3)(iii),
which provides for suspension for a month rather than termination.
It appears 273.12(c)(3)(ii) and (iii) conflict. (ii) states benefits
must be terminated following 10-day adverse action notice
if the household does not respond or refuses to provide the information
and (iii) states the state may suspend the household for
1 month following 10-day adverse action notice requirements.
There are two options when a household fails to respond to the RFC in
a satisfactory manner. Assuming that the household never provides the
necessary information, the two ways are:
In 273.12(f) it states that in a situation that requires a reduction
or termination of TANF the state agency must issue a request for contact.
What if the information used to reduce or terminate TANF is sufficient
to reduce or terminate food stamps can the state agency act on the information
available if it is sufficient and forego the RFC?
Yes. According to 7 CFR 273.12(f)(3)(I)(A), the RFC only comes into play
when the state agency does not have sufficient information to determine
eligibility and benefit level for food stamps.
The final rule requires state agencies to implement 7 CFR 273.12(f)(3)(ii)(A)
by January 20, 2001. However, this provision refers to implementing it
in accordance with 7 CFR 273.12(c)(3)(i), which is not yet effective.
How can a state agency implement 273.12(f)(3)(ii)(A) before the effective
date for 273.12(c)(3)(i)?
State agencies must implement 7 CFR 273.12(f)(3)(ii)(A) by June 1, 2001
for all newly applying households.
Until the requirement for the Request for Contact becomes effective,
the state agency must develop a procedure for getting information. Some
possible options are:
The state agency must stop using a Notice of Expiration by June 1, 2001.
Can the state agency shorten a 24-month certification period when:
A household’s circumstances change, and
It is no longer eligible for such a long certification period?
For example, suppose a household, with two elderly members, correctly
received a 24-month certification period. Then, a non-elderly, non-disabled
adult joins the household. Such a household is not entitled to a certification
period longer than 12 months. May the state agency shorten the certification
The Food Stamp Act (at Section 3(c)) precludes certification periods
of longer than twelve months for households like this one. The regulations
cannot supersede the Act.
Two ways that the state agency could do this are:
Terminate the household’s participation immediately and recertify
the household, or
Terminate the household’s participation at the twelfth month and
recertify the household at that time.
If the state agency shortens the certification period, it must send the
household a notice of adverse action.
Suppose the local office has lost contact with the household. Perhaps
the post office returned mail. What should the local office do?
Until 7 CFR 273.12(c)(3), the Request for Contact, becomes effective,
the state agency must issue an advance or adequate notice of adverse action
and terminate the household’s participation. However, before doing so,
it would be prudent to try to locate the household in another way, since
the notice will probably never reach the household.
When 7 CFR 273.12(c)(3) becomes effective, the state agency will have
to issue a request for contact and then issue a notice before terminating
the household’s participation. But again, another attempt, such as a telephone
call, would be prudent.
Either way, the state agency has the option of sending an adequate, rather
than an advance, notice (please see 7 CFR 273.13(c)).
Is it okay for the local office to call the household if they cannot
reach the household in any other way?
Once the RFC procedure goes into effect will it be okay for the local
office to call the household before issuing a written Request for Contact?
Yes. However, if the state agency cannot contact the household by telephone,
it must then send a Request for Contact. The state agency must not simply
terminate the household’s participation.
Section L Drug / Alcohol Treatment Programs
This refers to 7 CFR 273.11(e)(4). This provision lets a state agency
issue semi-monthly allotments to households in drug addict and alcoholic
Suppose the state agency learns of a change in circumstances, but cannot
change the first of the semi-monthly allotments. What is the policy about
changing the second semi-monthly allotment?
The state agency must not change the second issuance. The state agency
would issue a notice that would affect the whole allotment for a subsequent
Section M Transitional Benefits
7 CFR 273.12(f)(4)(i) permits the state agency to "freeze for up
to 3 months the household’s benefit amount at the level the household
received when it was receiving TANF." However, the regulation goes
on to say: "If the household is losing income as a result of leaving
TANF, the State agency must adjust the food stamp benefit amount before
initiating the transition period."
Exactly when does one adjust and not adjust before freezing the benefit?
If enough information is available, the state agency must calculate an
allotment for the transitional period and compare it to the last allotment
that was received while the household was receiving TANF.
If the new benefit would be higher than the old benefit, freeze the
transitional benefit at the new level (that is, adjust the benefit).
If the new benefit would be lower than the old benefit, freeze the
transitional benefit at the old level (that is, do not adjust the
If there is not enough information on hand to calculate the new benefit,
the state agency must freeze the transitional benefit at the old level
(that is, do not adjust the benefit).
This answer presumes that the household’s last allotment while receiving
TANF was a correct allotment. For the treatment of incorrect allotments,
please see question M-3.
Suppose a household leaves TANF at the same time that its food stamp
certification period expires. Can the state agency give the household
transitional benefits for the first three months of its new certification
No. The transitional benefit is really just a delay in putting adverse
changes into effect during a certification period. There is no authority
to certify a household using outdated information. However, the state
agency could extend the expiring certification period up to the household’s
limit of 12 or 24 months.
Suppose the state agency discovers that the transitional benefit would
be incorrect. Can the state agency correct the household’s benefit, even
if that means reducing it?
Suppose the state agency extends the certification period for a Monthly
Reporting / Retrospective Budgeting household. Would the state agency
still send out the monthly reports and then ignore the information during
the extension period?
No. A household that receives transitional benefits is not required to
submit monthly reports, according to 7 CFR 273.12(f)(4(ii).
In the case of a missing or incomplete monthly report during the transitional
period, what actions do we take?
No action, because the household is not required to submit a monthly
Must the state agency act on reported changes once the transitional period
Yes. According to 7 CFR 273.12(f)(4)(iii), the transitional period is
really just a delay in processing reductions in allotments. So when the
transitional period ends, the state agency must put the reductions into
Section N Recertification
A household files a re-application before the end of its current certification
period. The household then fails to take a required action. According
to 7 CFR 273.14(e)(2), the state agency may deny the application:
It appears that the state agency can opt to implement one of these three
choices. Is this correct?
Given the situation in Question N-1, suppose the state agency chooses
to deny the re-application 30 days after the end of the certification
period and the client cooperates within those 30 days. In order to process
the household’s eligibility, can the state agency use the previously filed
re-application or must the household file a new application?
Use the previously filed re-application form.
Suppose a household’s certification period expires and the household
then applies sometime in the next 30 days. According to 7 CFR 273.14(e)(3)
this is a re-application. Must the household file an initial application
form or a re-application form?
A re-application form.
A state agency sends a Notice of Expiration, a blank re-application form,
and the date and time of a scheduled appointment. The household
never contacts the state agency. Must the state agency send a
Notice of Missed Interview?
No. The household has not re-applied, so it is not entitled to a Notice
of Missed Interview.
This question is similar to, but not identical to, question N-4. A state
agency sends a Notice of Expiration, a blank re-application form, and
the date and time of a scheduled appointment. The household mails
the re-application form back, but does not attend the interview.
Must the state agency send a Notice of Missed Interview?
Yes. This household has applied, so it is entitled to a Notice of Missed
Interview. The state agency may combine this with a Notice of Denial.
This question concerns delayed processing when it is the state agency’s
fault. Why would we prorate and then restore benefits back to the first
day of the month? Would it not be easier just to provide benefits back
to the first day of the new certification period? If not, would this be
a supplement for the current month?
The Food Stamp Act requires proration. Section 8(c)(1) states:
The value of the allotment issued to any eligible household for the
initial month or other initial period for which an allotment is issued
shall have a value which bears the same ratio to the value of the
allotment for a full month or other initial period for which the allotment
is issued as the number of days (from the date of application) remaining
in the month or other initial period for which the allotment is issued
bears to the total number of days in the month or other initial period
for which the allotment is issued, except that no allotment may be
issued to a household for the initial month or period if the value
of the allotment which such household would otherwise be eligible
to receive under this subsection is less than $10.
However, a state agency may restore the lost benefits simultaneously
with the household’s normal allotment.
Why are states required to send a notice of missed interview to households
who have failed to make their recertification interview?
The Notice of Missed Interview (NOMI) tells a household that it has not
followed through with its re-application and that it may still do so.
The intent was to make sure that households do not drop off the Program
because they failed to understand a procedural requirement.
If a household did not reapply, the state agency is under no obligation
to send it a NOMI.
Please also see question N-4.
The regulations require a face-to-face interview at least once a year.
Can the state agency require face-to-face interviews more frequently?
Yes. But 7 CFR 273.10(e)(1) precludes the state agency from requiring
a household to attend an interview at the food stamp office except at
certification and recertification.
What is considered an interview? For example, if the household comes
into the local office, is that an interview?
This recent final rule has not changed the meaning or purpose of an interview.
The interview is an oral discussion of the information that an application
requires (please see 7 CFR 273.2(e)(1)).
In deciding when to require an interview at recertification, may the
state agency decide on a household-by-household basis.
No. The State agency must establish categories and procedures that will
be applied consistently to ensure fair and non-discriminatory treatment
of program applicants and participants.
There used to be a requirement that state agencies include on their re-application
forms certain statements, including descriptions of penalties and clients’
rights and responsibilities. Is it correct to say that none of these statements
must be on the re-application form now?
No, re-application forms are fundamentally application forms and must
contain the statements that are described at 7 CFR 273.2(b)(1).
Section O Aliens
Please note that at this time, the provision regarding indigent aliens,
at 7 CFR 273.4(c)(3)(iv), is not yet effective.
Under long-standing policy, a state agency will determine household members
ineligible if they do not:
Disclose their citizenship
Establish satisfactory immigration status
Provide their Social Security Numbers, or
Apply for Social Security Numbers.
What information can the state agency require these non-applicants to
Non-applicant household members are still required to answer questions
that affect the eligibility of the applicant household members, such as
information on income, resources, striker status, and intentional program
The rules state the sponsor’s (and spouse’s) income will be deemed at
application and recertification. The amount of deemed income depends in
part on the sponsor’s income and the number of dependents that the sponsor
claims for Federal income tax purposes.
What happens if the sponsor’s income is reduced or the number of dependents
increases during the certification period? The rules only discuss change
or loss of employment or death (7 CFR 273.4(c)(4)). They do not discuss
changes in amounts of employment or the sponsor’s household composition
The Household’s Requirement to Report Changes
7 CFR 273.4(c)(4) requires a sponsored alien is only required to report
a change in the deemed income when the sponsor (or sponsor’s spouse):
Loses employment, or
The State Agency’s Requirement to Act on Changes
The state agency must act on all reported changes in accordance with
the household’s budgeting and reporting systems.
What is a non-citizen national? This term appears at 7 CFR 273.4(a)(2)
A non-citizen national is a person born in an outlying possession of
the United States (American Samoa or Swain's Island) on or after the date
the U.S. acquired the possession, or a person whose parents are U.S. noncitizen
nationals (subject to certain residency requirements).
7 CFR 273.4(a)(5)(ii) refers to having 40 qualifying quarters of work.
Suppose a household earned qualifying quarters, but simultaneously received
benefits from a federal means-tested program. Does this mean that the
quarters do not apply in determining eligibility for food stamps?
Yes, when the program was a federal means-tested public benefit. Examples
of federal programs that distribute means-tested benefits are:
State Child Health Insurance (SCHIP)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Food Assistance Programs in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the
Northern Marianas (CNMI).
What is the importance of indigence in a sponsored alien?
If a sponsored alien is indigent, the ordinary rules on deeming the sponsor’s
income and resources (7 CFR 273.4(c)(2)) do not apply. Please see 7 CFR
273.4(c)(3)(iv) and the preamble on page 70168, right column.
A sponsor is an individual who executed an affidavit of support. Does
this mean that individuals who were sponsored before PRWORA no longer
have income deemed from sponsors?
The November 21, 2000 rule applies only to sponsored aliens for whom
the sponsor has executed INS Forms I-864 or I-864A. There should be few
if any sponsored aliens who entered under the old affidavit of support.
The old affidavit was last used on December 18, 1997.
State agencies have the option of allowing clients to declare themselves
to be non-applicants. According to 7 CFR 273.11(c)(2) and (3), the state
agency can treat the non-applicant’s income differently, depending upon
whether the non-applicant:
Refuses to provide or apply for a Social Security Number (prorate
the income), or
Is unwilling or unable to provide documentation of alien status (prorate
or count entirely, at the state agency’s discretion).
When clients simply declare themselves to be non-applicants, which must
the state agency do?
Prorate the income, because the state agency has not determined whether
the person is an alien or not.
Section P Self-Employment
How will payments for capital assets and real estate be determined when
IRS income tax forms are used for the self-employment income budgeting
It would be the state agency’s responsibility to request, and the household’s
responsibility to provide information about these payments.
When she applies, a farmer reports that last year she purchased:
Her payments could be as high as $33,000 or as low as the minimum the
lending agent allows, depending on payments he actually made. How much
would the state agency exclude as a cost of doing business?
Whatever the household expects to pay during the upcoming year.
The same basic circumstances as Question P-4.
What if the farmer is still making payments on equipment he purchased
in the last ten years? Do we have to get amounts and prices of those payments?
Additionally determining the payments could be very complex farmers
usually get an operating loan each year based on the amount owed from
last year and this year’s anticipated amount. The loan could have money
for seed purchases, livestock for resale, along with capital asset purchases.
The state agency would need to get the household’s payments for equipment
The state agency chooses to use the standard cost of doing business
for its TANF Program (please see 7 CFR 273.11(a)(3)(iv), or
The state agency has an approved simplified method for calculating
the cost of doing business (please see 7 CFR 273.11(a)(3)(v)). FNS
would consider approving a simplified method that would treats the
repayment of an operating loan as a cost of doing business.
Suppose a farmer submitted income tax forms for 2000 for his allotment
calculation. The farmer then reports in March, 2001, that he paid $50,000
for a tractor. Must a state agency consider that a substantial change
and re-budget the household’s self-employment income?
Suppose a food stamp household operates a day care center and receives
payments from the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Is the CACFP payment,
for the household’s own children, excluded income?
No. The payment is non-excluded (or countable) income, from which the
state agency would exclude the cost of doing business (please see 7 CFR
273.11(b)(3) and (b)(3)(I)).
Section Q Shelter Expenses
There seems to be a conflict between the preamble and the regulations.
On page 70175, in the left column, the last paragraph states:
However, 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) reads:
Which policy should the state agencies follow?
A household that receives a LIHEA payment is automatically entitled to
an HCSUA, if the state agency has one. There has been no change in policy.
The wording on page 70175, left column, the last paragraph, refers to
the Food Stamp Act. However, the LIHEA Act controls, or
supersedes the Food Stamp Act. And the LIHEA Act requires
that the LIHEA payments "be considered to be expended by the household
for heating or cooling expenses".
7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(E) requires that a mandatory SUA "not result
in increased program costs". How does a state agency prove that the
cost of its SUA is neutral?
There is no particular method that a state agency must use.
One acceptable method is:
A Determine the overall cost of the new standard by multiplying the
new standard by the anticipated SUA caseload.
B Determine the cost of the current system by adding together:
The product of the old standard and the SUA caseload, and
The actual expenses of the non-SUA caseload.
C Comparing A to B and finding that A is no more than B.
If the new mandatory SUA were the same as the old optional SUA, there
would be a savings. This is because the households that used to use actual
utility expenses would now be deducting the lower SUA. Because of this
savings, the state agency could increase the SUA and still make it cost-neutral.
If a household’s only utility bill is for heating or cooling, must the
state agency allow the HCSUA?
Generally, yes, if the state agency uses an HCSUA. However, there are
exceptions for some residents of public housing and some residents of
states with minimal cooling costs.
Policy Memorandum 03-97-04 permitted a state agency to have an SUA that
includes heating (but not cooling) costs, and another SUA without heating
costs. A household with cooling, but not heating costs would use the non-heating
Does the new regulation supersede the policy in 03-97-04?
A state with minimal cooling costs may include the cost of cooling in
the electricity component. So in such a state, a household with cooling
but not heating would use the Limited Utility Allowance (LUA), according
to 7CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(A).
The new $340 shelter cap goes into effect for households whose certification
period begins on or after March 1st. Suppose a certification
period were going to expire February 28th, but the state agency
extended the certification period. Would the extension entitle the household
to the new shelter cap?
No. Section 846 of the legislation that included the Hunger Relief Act
(Public Law 106-387) mandated an increase in the excess shelter cap. That
section made the increase effective on March 1, 2001. However, the law
went on to say:
Since the example’s extended certification period began before March
1, 2001, the household would not be entitled to the new shelter cap.
Section R Extending Certification Periods
Can a worker decide in the fourth month of a six-month certification
period to extend the certification period up to 12 months because the
worker is anticipating a heavy work load?
Yes. However, the state agency may want to monitor this situation closely
to avoid an even heavier workload when the extended certification periods