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Beginning Verification before October 1: Guidance to Local Educational Agencies

EO Guidance Document #
FNS-GD-2017-0057
FNS Document #
SP42-2017
Resource type
Policy Memos
Guidance Documents
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Policy Memo (85.05 KB)
DATE: September 8, 2017
POLICY MEMO: SP 42-2017
SUBJECT: Beginning Verification before October 1: Guidance to Local Educational Agencies
TO: Regional Directors
Special Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance to state agencies and local educational agencies (LEAs) on the option to begin verification activities before October 1.

Section 9(b)(3)(D) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA), 42 USC 1758(b)(3)(D), and regulations at 7 CFR 245.6a(c)(1) require LEAs to verify a sample of approved applications for free and reduced price meals each school year. Verification is not required when eligibility is determined through direct certification in accordance with program provisions in Section 9(b)(4) and (5) of the NSLA, 42 USC 1758(b)(4) and (5), and regulations at 7 CFR 245.6(b).

Beginning Verification before October 1

The NSLA states that verification must be based on a school’s sample size as of October 1 each school year. However, FNS regulations at 7 CFR 245.6a(c)(3) allow LEAs to begin verification once they begin the application approval process for the current school year and have approved applications on file. This means LEAs are not required to wait until October 1 to initiate the verification process, and may instead choose to begin conducting verification once they begin the application approval process for the current school year.

For some LEAs, particularly those expecting large verification sample sizes, starting earlier than October 1 may ease the administrative burden associated with the verification process by distributing tasks and responsibilities over a longer period of time. In practice, conducting verification on a rolling basis (e.g., weekly or monthly) helps LEAs mitigate a possible rush of document processing and follow-up communications that may occur when sampling and household outreach occur at a single point in time. For these reasons, FNS encourages LEAs to consider utilizing rolling verification.

Please note that all existing statutory and regulatory requirements continue to apply when using this approach, but the timing and sampling process is tailored to accommodate the extended timeframe during which verification is being conducted. When beginning verification prior to October 1, LEAs must:

  • decide how often to sample applications,
  • include in each sample pool only applications approved since the last sample was selected, and
  • select either 3 percent or 1.5 percent of approved applications, as required by the sampling method, each time.
Follow-up/Change, Reduction or Termination of Benefits Notices

The minimum requirements outlined at 7 CFR 245.6a(f)(6), (f)(7), and (j) still apply regardless of when the verification process begins. These requirements include one follow-up attempt to contact non-responding households and a 10-day advance notification of a reduction or termination of benefits. LEAs that send their initial verification notices on a rolling basis may, but are not required to, carry out these requirements on a rolling basis as well. Some LEAs may realize maximum administrative benefit by conducting all steps on a rolling basis. However, others may prefer to send initial notices in stages but carry out the remaining steps in the process on a fixed schedule. The attachment provides guidance to LEAs choosing to perform verification on a rolling basis in order to ensure all existing requirements regarding sampling method and sample size are met.

State agencies are reminded to distribute this memorandum to program operators. Program operators should direct any questions concerning this guidance to their state agency. State agencies with questions should contact the appropriate FNS regional office.

Angela Kline
Director
Policy and Program Development Division
Child Nutrition Programs
Edward Harper
Director
Office of Program Integrity
Child Nutrition Programs

 

Attachment
09/08/2017

The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.