|Title:||FNS Information Collection Needs due to COVID-19.|
|Expiration Date:||Jan. 31, 2022.|
|Type of Request:||Extension of a currently approved collection.|
As the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) continues responding to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, it is implementing a number of waivers and program adjustments to ensure Americans in need can access nutrition assistance during the crisis while maintaining recommended practices.
Two pieces of legislation have detailed many of the program adjustments available to FNS. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (PL 116-127) (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act (PL 116-136) provided a number of program adjustments and additional funding, respectively. The statutes describing these waivers and flexibilities also have reporting requirements. The Department obtained OMB approval to collect the information described in this Notice (OMB 0584-0654; expiration 1/31/2022). USDA anticipates the need to collect data beyond the expiration date and is seeking approval of this Information Collection Request in order to meet continuing information collection and reporting requirements, as well as program administration needs to implement the CARES Act.
In addition to program adjustments and waiver flexibilities authorized under the FFCRA and CARES Act, Section 12(l) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 USC 1760(l)) (NSLA) allows FNS to waive statutory and regulatory requirements established under the NSLA or Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 USC 1771 et seq. ) for a state or eligible service provider administering a child nutrition program (CNP). FNS issues statewide waivers under NSLA waiver authority in response to state agencies' requests to facilitate the ability for program operators to carry out the purposes of CNPs during COVID-19-related operations. FNS has issued waivers under NSLA authority to enable program operators to operate CNPs with appropriate safety measures in place with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.
NSLA waiver authority requires states or eligible service providers in need of a waiver of program requirements to submit a detailed application that identifies the statutory or regulatory requirements to be waived. Applications must also describe any actions undertaken to remove barriers, describe the goal of the waiver to improve services, and include a description of the impediments to the efficient operation and administration of the program. States must provide notice to the public regarding each waiver request submitted to FNS, and states that receive a waiver approval of program requirements under NSLA waiver authority must submit a report on waiver implementation, including whether the waiver resulted in improved services to children.
Section 2302(a)(2) of the FFCRA allowed USDA to adjust, at the request of state agencies or by guidance in consultation with one or more state agencies, issuance methods and application and reporting requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) under the Food and Nutrition Act (FNA) of 2008, as amended, to be consistent with what is practicable under actual conditions in affected areas. Section 2302(c) of FFCRA required the Secretary of Agriculture to submit a report to Congress following the end of the public health emergency, including a description of the measures taken to address the food security needs of affected populations during the emergency, including any information or data supporting state agency requests, among other information not included in this information collection (IC).
Section 2203(a)(1) of the FFCRA allowed state agencies administering the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to request a waiver of 17(d)(3)(C)(i) of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 USC 1786(d)(3)(C)(i)), which requires applicants be physically present in the clinic. Local agencies are required to submit a report detailing the use and benefits of this waiver within one year of use of such waiver, and state agencies are required to submit a summary report of local agency usage of waivers under this Section within 18 months. Section 2204(a)(1) gave state agencies administering WIC and the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) the opportunity to request a waiver or modification of qualified regulatory requirements from USDA if such requirements cannot be met due to COVID-19, and such waivers are necessary to provide assistance to WIC and WIC FMNP participants. State agencies are also required under this Section to provide a report to USDA no later than one year after such waivers were granted, detailing their use of the waiver and how it improved services to women, infants and children.
In the instances described above, the information collection addressed and/or will address burden associated with requirements under provisions of the NSLA, FFCRA, and CARES Act, as well as Nationwide waivers under some of the aforementioned authorities. State agencies have been required to develop and submit waiver requests in response to COVID-19, provide public notification regarding waiver requests, and report to FNS evaluation data on how waivers impacted Federal benefit programs.
Additionally, FNS is asking state agencies to report the USDA commodities used during a disaster on a more frequent basis. This information is currently collected in an OMB-approved form, the FNS-292A, Report of Commodity Distribution for Disaster Relief (OMB Control Number 0584-0594 Food Programs Reporting System, expiration July 31, 2023). State distributing agencies may release commodity or donated foods procured by the USDA to disaster organizations to provide nutritional assistance to disaster victims. Under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 7 CFR 250.69(f), state distributing agencies shall provide a summary report to FNS within 45 days following termination of the disaster assistance, and maintain records of these reports and other information relating to disasters. OMB approved FNS to change the frequency of the collection of the commodity reports from 45 days after the completion of the disaster, to a weekly basis. This change was requested due to the number of requests and the burden of the FNS regional offices. This request allowed FNS Food Distribution (FD) staff to monitor levels of USDA commodities more frequently to ensure states had access to USDA commodities.