|DATE:||April 20, 2021|
|POLICY MEMO:||COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #94|
|SUBJECT:||Nationwide Waiver of Onsite Monitoring Requirements in the School Meal Programs – Revised – Extension 3|
Special Nutrition Programs
Child Nutrition Programs
Pursuant to the authority in Section 2202(a) of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the FFCRA) (PL 116-127), as extended by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act (PL 116-159), and based on the exceptional circumstances of this public health emergency, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is extending a nationwide waiver to help minimize potential exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID–19). This waiver extends the Nationwide Waiver of Onsite Monitoring Requirements in the School Meals Programs – Revised – Extension 2, granted on Aug. 4, 2020, that expires on June 30, 2021 – until 30 days after the end of the public health emergency, which was declared on Jan. 31, 2020 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This extension applies to the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.
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.
Under program statute and regulations, state agencies are required to conduct monitoring of the school meal programs on a 3-year cycle, unless the state agency has received a waiver allowing a longer review cycle. In addition, 7 CFR 210.18(c) requires that the onsite portion of the administrative review must be completed the same school year the review began. However, FNS recognizes that in this public health emergency, suspending onsite monitoring is vital to support social distancing. FNS also understands that some state agencies that began administrative reviews in a school year were then not able to conduct the onsite portion of the review due to the public health emergency. FNS recognizes that state agencies and local program operators continue to need additional support and flexibility to monitor the programs while managing the impacts of COVID-19.
Therefore, pursuant to the FFCRA authority cited above, FNS extends its waiver of school meal programs onsite monitoring requirements included at 7 CFR 210.8, 210.16(a), 210.18, 220.7, 220.8(h), and 220.11(d) and the requirement to complete the onsite portion of the administrative review during the school year in which the review was begun at 7 CFR 210.18(c), for all state agencies and school food authorities (SFAs) that elect to be subject to this waiver. Please note that to ensure program integrity during this time, state agencies and SFAs should continue monitoring activities of program operations offsite (e.g., through a desk audit). State agencies that choose to conduct the onsite portion of the administrative review at a later time should submit an amendment to any previously provided documentation when significant changes or updates occur. The onsite monitoring portion of this waiver remains in effect until 30 days after the end of the public health emergency, which was declared on Jan. 31, 2020 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Consistent with Section 2202(a)(2) of the FFCRA, this extension applies automatically to all states and local operators that elect to use it, without further application. If the state agency elects to waive either school meal programs onsite monitoring or the requirement that the onsite portion of the administrative review must be completed during the school year in which the review began, it must notify its respective FNS regional office, which will acknowledge receipt. Election of these flexibilities must be tracked separately. State agencies should inform local program operators of the extension of this waiver as quickly as possible, and work in partnership with local operators to ensure their safety. Elections and approvals under the initial waiver will continue under this extension; no further action is needed.
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 extension.2 The report must include:
- A summary of the use of this extension by the state agency and local program operators, and
- A description of whether and how this extension resulted in improved services to program participants.
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.
Program Monitoring and Operational Support Division