This interim rule implements provisions of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 relating to verification of applications approved for free or reduced price meals in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.
This interim rule includes changes to sample sizes for local education agencies (school districts) when conducting verification which include alternatives when there is an increase in the number of responses to the requests for verification; direct verification provisions which allow the local educational agency to contact means-tested programs to verify the information on applications without contacting the applicant household for documentation; and revised deadlines for completion of verification efforts.
This interim rule also establishes a standard sample size of three percent for local educational agencies that do not qualify for use of an alternative sample size. The direct verification provision will reduce the number of households that must be contacted to submit documentation. This interim rule incorporates other statutory changes designed to assist households in completing the verification process. These changes require the local educational agency to have a telephone number that households may call, without charge, for questions about verification.
The local educational agency must also make at least one attempt to follow-up with households selected for verification prior to denying benefits when the household fails to respond. There is also a provision that gives local education agencies the discretion to replace selected applications when households are deemed unlikely to respond to the verification request.
These are safeguards to avoid termination of a child's benefits due to misunderstandings or other difficulties that may preclude households from effectively complying with the verification request. The changes made in this interim rule are intended to enhance verification efforts which will improve the accuracy of benefit distribution.