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Letter to State Commissioners on Changes to Immigrants' Food Stamp Certification Requirements

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The Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, which the President signed Sept. 30, 1996, makes a significant change to implementation of the food stamp eligibility provisions for noncitizens of PL 104-193, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996.

Under PL 104-193, all currently participating noncitizens were to have the new provisions for food stamps applied at the time of the household's next recertification. The Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act delays these new eligibility provisions (Section 402(a)(1) of PL 104-193) until April 1, 1997, for individuals who were receiving benefits on Aug. 22, 1996. The Act requires State agencies to redetermine the eligibility of all noncitizen recipients between April 1, 1997, and Aug. 22, 1997.

This new provision is retroactive to Aug. 22, 1996. Thus, any immigrant who was determined ineligible at recertification on or after Aug. 22, 1996, as a result of the application of PL 104-193 shall be reinstated to eligibility and any household containing a reinstated alien is entitled to restored benefits for the period during which benefits were denied.

I also want to respond to questions about the 120-day "hold harmless" period provided for quality control error measurement purposes under the Food Stamp Act which applies whenever there are changes in program policy, such as those enacted in PL 104-193.

Since the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act did not change the effective date of the noncitizen eligibility provisions for new applicants, the state is entitled to the 120-day hold harmless if it implemented on or before Sept. 23. If it implemented after Sept. 23, its 120-day hold harmless period would be reduced by one day for each day beyond Sept. 23.

Yvette S. Jackson
Deputy Administrator
Food Stamp Program

Page updated: March 13, 2023

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.