Nationwide Waiver to Extend Area Eligibility Waivers through August 31, 2020
|DATE:||June 10, 2020|
|POLICY MEMO:||COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #32|
|SUBJECT:||Nationwide Waiver to Extend Area Eligibility Waivers through August 31, 2020|
Child Nutrition Programs
Pursuant to the authority in Section 2202(a) of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the FFCRA) (PL 116-127) and based on the exceptional circumstances of this public health emergency, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is establishing a nationwide waiver to extend area eligibility waivers through Aug. 31, 2020 to continue supporting access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This waiver applies to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Seamless Summer Option (SSO).
Section 2202(a) of the FFCRA permits the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a waiver for all states for the purposes of providing meals under the child nutrition programs, with appropriate safety measures, as determined by the Secretary.
Pursuant to the waiver authority granted under Section 2102(b) of the FFCRA to approve waivers that may increase cost to the Federal Government and have the purpose of providing meals and meal supplements, FNS previously provided 52 individual statewide waivers for states to allow SFSP and SSO sponsors in good standing to operate open sites in areas consistent with the state plan, but not located in “Areas in which poor economic conditions exist,” through June 30, 2020. These waivers facilitated the provision of meals to children in need during the challenges faced by Americans as a result of economic hardships due to COVID-19. Across the Nation, schools and community organizations have used this flexibility to provide meals to children during the public health emergency. FNS recognizes that state agencies and local program operators need additional support and flexibility to continue serving meals to children in need while managing the economic impacts of COVID-19.
Through this nationwide waiver, FNS extends the ability for states to continue operating open sites in areas that are not located in “Areas in which poor economic conditions exist,” as defined at section 13(a)(1)(A) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) and as referenced in regulation at 7 CFR 225.2, 225.6(c)(2)(i)(G), 225.6(c)(3)(i)(B), 225.6(d)(1)(i), 225.14(c)(3), and 225.16(b)(4), through Aug. 31, 2020. Additionally, FNS reserves the right to withdraw this approval subject to availability of funding.
Consistent with section 2202(a)(2) of the FFCRA, this waiver applies automatically to all states that elect to use it, without further application. This waiver may apply to any site that operated under the previous state area eligibility plan. If the state agency elects to implement this extension, it must notify its respective FNS Regional Office, which will acknowledge receipt. State agencies should inform local program operators of the flexibilities provided by this waiver as quickly as possible, and work in partnership with local operators to provide meals to all participants in a safe and accessible manner. FNS recognizes the need for continuity of operations in the summer months. These operations ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. State agencies must continue their plan for ensuring that meal sites are targeting benefits to children in need, for example, children who may be eligible for benefits due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. State agencies should work with local program operators in developing their plans as local program operators are best situated to determine how to provide these assurances.
As required by Section 2202(d) of the FFCRA, each state that elects to be subject to this waiver must submit a report to the Secretary not later than 1 year after the date such state elected to receive the waiver. The report must include:
- A summary of the use of this waiver by the state agency and local program operators,
- A summary of how new meal sites were targeted to benefits for children who were previously eligible or newly eligibly for program benefits due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, and
- A description of whether and how this waiver resulted in improved services to program participants.
FNS stands ready to provide assistance to areas impacted by COVID–19 and intends to continue supporting access to nutritious meals during this public health emergency.
FNS appreciates the exceptional effort of state agencies and local program operators working to meet the nutritional needs of participants during a challenging time. State agencies should direct questions to the appropriate FNS regional office.
Angela M. Kline
Policy and Program Development Division
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.