Under Secretary Summary of State Options
July 3, 2002
Mr. Vincent P. Meconi
Department of Health and Social Services
1901 North Dupont Highway
New Castle, Delaware 19720-1115
Dear Mr. Meconi:
I am writing you today to urge full consideration of food stamp policy
options which can improve customer service and streamline program administration.
Such choices promote program access and more efficient management.
Enclosed is a brief summary of two sets of options. The first
set is from the fiscal year (FY) 2002 Farm Bill. The second set
existed before enactment of the Farm Bill. I am bringing these options
to your attention now, not only because they allow State agencies to administer
with more flexibility and promote access for participants, but also because
they can help State agencies address the budget difficulties many are
experiencing. I believe you will find that these options, individually
or in combination, can improve efficiency and reduce pressure on State
Additionally, the Food and Nutrition Service has developed a report on
the choices States have made among the various policy options through
April 4, 2002. A copy is enclosed. The report is also available
on the Food, Nutrition,
and Consumer Services website. I hope you will find the report useful
as you consider policy options.
While most of the Farm Bill creates new choices for States, there are
several mandatory features of the bill and I would like to draw your attention
to one in particular. Food stamp eligibility has been restored to
most legal immigrants including the following groups: 1) those receiving
disability benefits, regardless of entry date (effective FY 2003); 2)
those under 18, regardless of entry date (effective FY 2004); and 3) those
who have lived in the United States continuously for 5 years as a qualified
alien beginning on their date of entry (effective April 2003). I
am asking States that use their own funds to provide a food stamp benefit
to legal immigrants to give careful consideration to the continuity of
benefits as they implement the immigrant provisions of the Farm Bill.
Please contact us if you have any doubt as to eligible populations, effective
dates, or other matters.
As always, I invite you to call upon me or my staff for any additional
information we can provide to support you in your work.
Eric M. Bost
Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services
Enclosure: Summary of State Options
Food Stamp Program
Summary of State Options
The Farm Bill gives State agencies the option to:
Treat legally obligated child support payments to a non-household member
as income exclusions rather than as income deductions. This will
help more households pass the gross income test.
Simplify income policy by:
Excluding certain income sources.
Conforming program income definitions by excluding certain types of
income that are not counted under the State’s Temporary Assistance
to Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance or section 1931 Medicaid programs.
This provision, too, will help more households pass the gross income
The types of income a State may exclude under this option are:
Educational assistance not counted under Medicaid.
State complementary assistance not counted under section 1931 of Medicaid.
Any type of income not counted under section 1931 of Medicaid or TANF
except for: wages or salaries; benefits from major assistance programs;
regular payments from a government source (such as unemployment benefits
or general assistance); worker’s compensation, child support payments;
or other types as determined by the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA) through regulations that are essential to fair determinations
of food stamp eligibility and benefit amounts.
Facilitate the use of a mandatory Standard Utility Allowance
(SUA) (rather than actual utility costs) for all households. For
these States, it eliminates the current requirement to prorate the SUA
when households share living quarters and it allows the use of the SUA
for households in public housing with shared meters that are only charged
for excess utility costs.
Use a standard deduction from income of $143 per month
for homeless households with some shelter expenses.
Disregard reported changes in deductions during certification
periods except for changes associated with a new residence or
earned income until the next recertification.
Exclude certain types of resources that the State does
not count for TANF or section 1931 Medicaid. Under this option,
States may not exclude cash, licensed vehicles, amounts in financial institutions
that are readily available, or other resources as determined by USDA through
regulations that are essential to fair determinations of food stamp eligibility
and benefit amounts.
Streamline household reporting by extending semi-annual
reporting of changes to all households not exempt from periodic reporting.
Under current regulations, this option is limited to households with earnings.
For States choosing the option, households required to report less often
than every 3 months would only have to report when income exceeds the
gross income limits.
Support families as they move off TANF cash assistance
by extending from the current 3 months up to 5 months the period of time
households may receive transitional food stamp benefits when they lose
TANF cash assistance. Benefits would be equal to the amount received
by the household prior to the termination of TANF with adjustments in
income for the loss of TANF and, at State option, information from another
program in which the household participates. A household would not
be eligible for the extension if it was losing TANF cash assistance because
of a sanction, was disqualified from the Food Stamp Program, or is in
a category of households designated by the State as ineligible for transitional
benefits. Households may apply for re-certification during the transitional
period with benefits to be determined according to current circumstances.
The provision also extends through the end of the transitional period
the length of time households can be certified for benefits (currently
limited to 12 months for most households).
State agencies also have the option to:
Support working families by substituting the vehicle
rules they use in their TANF-funded or TANF/MOE-funded assistance programs
for the food stamp vehicle rules when doing so results in a lower attribution
of resources to households.
Base utility allowances on actual utility expenses or establish
standard utility allowances. Further, States have the option
of making their standard utility allowances mandatory, or allowing households
to select either the actual expenses or the standard utility allowance.
Expand categorical eligibility so that households receiving
TANF services other than cash assistance become categorically eligible
for food stamps.
Streamline reporting requirements in ways that encourage
participation and simplify administration.
Implement an approved outreach plan, which provides
new opportunities to secure matching funds and gives States a way to showcase
their accomplishments and their novel ideas for increasing participation.
Finally, program regulations call for waiving the face-to-face
interview requirement in favor of a telephone interview when
a household would face a hardship by attending an in-office interview.